Virgin Galactic completed its third spaceflight and the first ever spaceflight from Spaceport America, New Mexico on Saturday [22 May 2021].
VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve, and reached space, at an altitude of 55.45 miles (approx 88kms) before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Spaceport America.
The first two spaceflights were operated from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port before the company relocated its operation to New Mexico, 15 months ago.
“Today’s flight showcased the inherent elegance and safety of our spaceflight system, while marking a major step forward for both Virgin Galactic and human spaceflight in New Mexico,” said Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic.
“Space travel is a bold and adventurous endeavour, and I am incredibly proud of our talented team for making the dream of private space travel a reality. We will immediately begin processing the data gained from this successful test flight, and we look forward to sharing news on our next planned milestone.”
Virgin Galactic fulfilled a number of test objectives during the flight, including:
- Carried revenue-generating scientific research experiments as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.
- Collected data to be used for the final two verification reports that are required as part of the current FAA commercial reusable spacecraft operator’s license.
- Tested the spaceship’s upgraded horizontal stabilisers and flight controls and validated EMI reductions.
To mark the first human spaceflight from New Mexico, the Zia Sun Symbol of New Mexico’s state flag was placed prominently on the exterior of the Spaceship. In addition, Virgin Galactic flew green chile seeds, which are synonymous with the state’s rich agricultural and culinary history.
“Fifteen years ago, New Mexico embarked on a journey to create the world’s first commercial spaceport,’’ said Sir Richard Branson. ‘’Today, we launched the first human spaceflight from that very same place, marking an important milestone for both Virgin Galactic and New Mexico.
“I am proud of the team for their hard work and grateful to the people of New Mexico who have been unwavering in their commitment for commercial spaceflight from day one. Their belief and support have made today’s historic achievement possible.”
New Mexico Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, said: “After so many years and so much hard work, New Mexico has finally reached the stars. Our state’s scientific legacy has been honoured by this important achievement, one that took guts and faith and an unwavering belief in what New Mexico can achieve — and indeed is destined to achieve. I can’t wait to see what comes next.”
This spaceflight was conducted under strict COVID-19 protocols.