Next window for Virgin Galactic test flight

Remedial work carried out to address recent engine failure to ignite

VSS Unity reaches space | © Virgin Galactic 2018

Virgin Galactic has earmarked a flight window in February for its next rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity.

The most recent attempt at a rocket-powered flight by the space tourism enterprise in December 2020 baulked at the last-minute when the engines failed to ignite.

The flight window will open on 13 February and extend throughout the month. Onboard will be two pilots who will carry research payloads for NASA.

SpaceShipTwo Unity released from VMS Eve © Virgin Galactic 2020

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Pre-flight preparations are already underway at Spaceport America, New Mexico, including rigourous steps to prepare the vehicles, pilots, teams and facilities.

A key objective of the upcoming flight will be to test the remedial work that has been completed since the 12 December 2020 flight when the onboard computer halted the ignition of the rocket motor.

Addressing that situation, Virgin Galactic said it has identified the “root cause” of the issue and “completed the corrective work required, and carried out extensive ground testing. The next stage will be to assess and verify this work during a rocket-powered flight.”

Virgin Galactic Spaceship seats rotated back in space © Virgin Galactic 2020

The upcoming flight will also provide Virgin Galactic with the opportunity to evaluate elements of the customer cabin, test the live stream capability from the vehicle to the ground, along with other objectives.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic said: “We are pleased to be able to get back to the skies and continue our flight test program. I would like to thank our team for their continued hard work and diligence in working towards this important milestone for Virgin Galactic.’’

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