Virgin Galactic announces May test flight of VSS Unity

Space News

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Virgin Galactic has announced that pending weather and technical checks, its next test flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity will take place on May 22. The flight follows a maintenance review of VMS Eve, the mothership jet that carries SpaceShipTwo.

According to a press release from the company, Virgin Galactic reports that a post-flight inspection of VMS Eve at the start of May required additional engineering analysis in order to assess a known maintenance item in the tail of the ship and was scheduled to be addressed during the next maintenance period. Virgin Galactic has since declared the structures as healthy and Eve has been cleared for flight.

“Following a detailed inspection and thorough analysis of our mothership, Eve, we have cleared our Spaceflight System for our upcoming flight. I want to thank our incredibly talented team of engineers, maintenance crew, quality inspectors and support staff for their diligence and hard work, which is testament to our commitment to safety and the integrity of our flight test program,” said Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic Michael Colglazier in a statement.

The May 22 VSS Unity flight will be crewed by two pilots and will reportedly carry research payloads as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities program. Virgin Galactic states that a key objective of the flight will be to test previous work that was completed on VSS Unity to lower the EMI levels that were experienced on a flight in December 2020 where an onboard computer prevented the ignition of the rocket motor.

The flight will additionally assess the upgraded horizontal stabilizer and flight controls during the flight’s boost phase, evaluate customer cabin elements, and test live stream capability from the spaceship to the ground. The press release states that after the May flight, the team will complete an extensive data review that will determine the next steps in the test flight program.

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