Virgin Galactic has conducted its first test flight from the Spaceport America commercial space base in New Mexico. This means that the company seems to be one step closer to the first flights with passengers on board.
VSS Unity’s flight was operated unannounced from Spaceport America on Friday. Virgin Galactic has always conducted test flights from its own Mojave Air & Space Port in California, but ultimately the company has wanted to use Spaceport America in New Mexico as its headquarters for years. Now, for the first time, the company has conducted a flight in which the aircraft VMS Eve lifted the spacecraft VSS Unity into the sky. Unity docked at an altitude of about 15 kilometers from the mothership and then rejoined the runway of Spaceport America.
During the test, several key systems were checked, in particular how the aircraft should perform certain aerodynamic manoeuvres. According to Virgin, the flight was also a good opportunity for the pilots to try out the skies over New Mexico. Virgin will study the data from the test flight before scheduling another test flight.
Virgin Galactic has been promising to offer commercial suborbital flights to the edge of space for years. Customers pay more than 200,000 euros before they are brought to an altitude of about 100 kilometers by plane. There they are weightless for a few minutes and they can call themselves astronauts. Virgin expects the first passenger flights to take place this year, but the company has said that since at least 2013.