One small step for an odd-looking craft, and one giant for Virgin Galactic, the Mojave-based aeronautics company that aims to transform space in a tourist trap.
On Friday, among the rocks and dust of Mojave Desert, Arizona, history was written. After the 2014 incident involving SpaceShipTwo the First, the company grew concerned about the future of the project. As you know, Virgin Galactic’s founder and CEO Richard Branson dreams of taking every Tom, Dick, and Harry into space.
Two years ago, while performing several tests, the first version of SpaceShipTwo destabilized in mid-air. Unfortunately, the ship’s pilot was killed on the spot, and his co-pilot has been severely injured in the resulting crash.
Of course, the incident was to become a major setback for the company. Since then, the engineers and scientists working at Virgin Galactic have gone over the ship’s specs in order to identify and correct the flaw that led to the tragic incident.
And now, after two years, the second version of SpaceShipTwo left Virgin Galactic’s hangars on Friday. After climbing in the air, WhiteKnightTwo, the aircraft designed to carry SpaceShipTwo ejected the craft.
A couple of minutes later, SpaceShipTwo was gliding in the air, much to the pilots’ and Branson’s delight. According to the flight data, SpaceShipTwo glided for more than 10 minutes, after which the pilot safely landed the craft on the nearby airstrip.
The test was deemed a success, and it would seem that Virgin Galactic’s off-time was well spent. The craft behaved exemplary during its 10-minute glide, and there were no indications of life-threatening defects.
Of course, this will not be SpaceShipTwo’s final test. According to Branson, SpaceShipTwo will have to undergo some rigorous stress tests before it is launched again. If everything looks fine, then the pilots will begin testing the ship’s jet engine.
Although this is the fifth flight of the SpaceShipTwo – WhiteKnightTwo duo, this is actually the first time the spacecraft got separated from its carrier.
SpaceShipTwo was designed for sub-orbital cruises, which means that it will allow people who have no intention of becoming astronauts to experience zero gravity-like conditions, without actually being into space.
But, as you would imagine, Branson aims higher than sending ships to sub-orbital positing. Virgin Galactic strives to bring to life the concept of space tourism – giving regular people a chance to see what’s beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
Image source: Wikipedia