SPACEPORT AMERICA, N.M. (KRQE) – Following more than a year of upgrades and a recent successful test flight above California’s Mojave Desert, Virgin Galactic’s VMS Eve carrier ship is back in New Mexico. The company confirmed a second successful test flight of the upgraded plane Monday, which has since landed at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences.
VMS (Virgin Mothership) Eve is a twin-fuselage aircraft that Virgin uses to transport its VSS (Virgin Spaceship) Unity spacecraft to nearly 50,000 feet. At that height, the VMS Eve releases the VSS Unity, which then ignites a rocket allowing the spaceship to blast into the edge of space.
Virgin Galactic said in a news release that crews are continuing to evaluate the performance of the upgraded carrier aircraft. Over the last year, the space company principally upgraded VMS Eve’s launch pylon, which is the mechanism that physically releases the VSS Unity spacecraft. Crews also installed new horizontal stabilizers and “upgraded avionics and mechanical systems” on the VMS Eve.
Virgin last told stockholders in November 2022 that the company would be ready for regular commercial space travel flights in the second quarter of 2023, sometime between April and June. In that same SEC filing, Virgin said it is planning to take groups of six to space once a month.
Before that can happen, more tests are in order, according to Virgin. That, in part, includes latching the VSS Unity to the VMS Eve’s new launch pylon. “After that comes a validation glide flight and rocket-powered spaceflight that will run the vehicles through all final system and operational checks ahead of commercial service,” Virgin Galactic said in a press release.