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Move Over SpaceX, New Virgin Galactic Spaceship Completes First Free Flight

Dec 05, 2016 08:07 AM EST

SpaceX got itself another competition as the new Virgin Galactic spaceship soars high during its first free flight. The new spacecraft called SpaceShipTwo completes its flight last Saturday, Dec. 3.

The SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity was lifted by mothership WhiteKnightTwo from Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The free flight is a ray of light for the company that is said to boost space tourism after a fatal crash in 2014 dampened the company's streak.

Richard Branson founded the company and is backed up by Abu Dhabi investors has successfully performed a manned free flight test last week. "VSS Unity has landed. Vehicle and crew are back safe and sound after a successful first glide test flight," a Virgin Galactic official said in a Tweet.

The company is working towards space tourism and the tests of its spacecraft will highly determine the success of their dream projects. SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity is the second from Virgin Galactic as the first one, VSS Enterprise crashed in 2014, according to Telegraph.

SpaceShipTwo USS Unity detached from its mother ship after liftoff and then pilots Mark Stucky and David McKay successfully landed the spacecraft after 10 minutes in flight. This is considered a major achievement for Virgin Galactic since the fatal crash in 2014 killed a pilot, Mike Alsbury and caused severe injuries to Pete Siebold.

The SpaceShipTwo USS Unity is a two-pilot plane that can hold six passengers. It is capable of sending its payload into suborbital space at 62 miles for $250,000 per head, according to Daily Mail.

But Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has had its fair share of glitches since the flight was originally scheduled for Nov. 1 but was delayed due to unfavorable weather while a second attempt was delayed due to a technical issue. The successful free flight will send Virgin Galactic to the next phase of testing the aerodynamics of the spacecraft. Eventually, the testing will proceed to powered flights.

But before the powered flights the company revealed that it could take up to 15 free flights before they can proceed to the next step. The first spacecraft testing in 2014 only succeeded in four free flights before it crashed forcing the company to halt the tests.


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