This first "feather" flight of the VSS Unity follows substantial testing of the system on the ground, and because the SpaceShipTwo conducted the test at lower altitudes, the air was thicker than it will be on actual reentry, providing a strenuous and robust test to push the capabilities of the aero-braking system.
As part of the test, Unity deployed its "feather" re-entry system that is created to return the craft safely to Earth after touching space. The Wing-feathering system on VSS Unity In the glide flight test conducted on Monday, the Unity's pilots engaged the "feathering" mechanism once Unity was released from the White Knight Two carrier aircraft. In 2014, Virgin Galactic pilot Michael Alsbury was killed when a rocket powering a test flight of the VSS Enterprise broke apart in midair, causing the vessel to crash.
The test took place during VSS Unity's fourth glide flight and saw the bespoke "feather" system created to slow the craft down and help it land back on Earth as gently as possible put through its paces in the air for the first time.
VSS Unity was piloted today by Mark Stucky and Mike Masucci, with pilots Nicola Pecile and CJ Sturckow as well as flight test engineer Dustin Mosher in WhiteKnightTwo.
Once operational, SpaceShipTwo is created to take up to six paying passengers and two pilots on short, suborbital flights beyond the atmosphere.
The goal is to get the ship ready to carry tourists, some of whom have paid up to $250,000, into space. Unity is the second version of the company's SpaceShipTwo and was built by Virgin Galactic's subsidiary, the Spaceship Company.
Virgin Galactic isn't the only space tourism company in the works. Virgin Galactic hailed the successful flight test in a series of tweets.
Both companies have stated that it's not a race, and that safety is the primary concern.