Virgin Trying to Reach Space Again on May 22

VSS Unity 1 photo
Photo: Mars Scientific/Trumbull Studios/Virgin Galactic
It has been a very dry year so far for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Here we are, five months into 2021, and we’re yet to see the company’s VSS Unity head out to the edge of space. With some luck, though, Virgin will fly for the first time this year on May 22.
The last (sort of) flight of the Unity occurred in December, but it was somewhat incomplete. A lost connection in the onboard computer that monitors propulsion prevented the rocket's ignition, abruptly ending the mission.

Since then, Virgin has been trying to get to the root of the problem. It apparently had something to do with electromagnetic interference and required a few months to fix. After that was done, Virgin had to begin a maintenance review of carrier plane VMS Eve, delaying the flight even longer.

This week Virgin announced everything seems to be ready for an attempted flight on May 22. The mission will have on board two pilots and research payloads as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities program.

All the objectives of the failed flight in December will be chased once more. They include the “assessment of the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during the boost phase of the flight, evaluating elements of the customer cabin, and testing the live stream capability from the spaceship to the ground.”

VSS Unity is a spaceplane-looking piece of machinery that launches horizontally from the underbelly of its carrier plane at an altitude of 50,000 feet (15 km). Once separated, the rocket motor ignites and sends the craft up to the edge of space, about 50 miles (80 km) high.

Virgin plans to use the Unity and whatever other spacecraft that will come after it to fly tourists to space in exchange for $250,000 per ride. The machine can carry eight people at a time, though two seats are reserved for the pilots. For now, there is no estimate on when commercial flights might begin.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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