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Virgin Galactic is celebrating the third successful supersonic test flight of VSS Unity, the passenger spacecraft it intends to make available for space tourism in the near future. This flight took the craft higher and faster than ever, stressing the system and providing useful data for the rocket plane’s engineers.
Virgin’s two-part flight system uses a traditional jet-powered plane, the WhiteKnightTwo-class VMS Eve, to carry the spacecraft up to about 45,000 feet, after which the latter detaches and zooms ahead (and upward) on rocket power.
Unity - Flights - Specs - Bit - April
Each of Unity’s flights has pushed its specs a bit further: The first one, in April, achieved Mach 1.6 and just over 84,000 feet of altitude. The second, in May, hit Mach 1.9 and reached 114,500 feet.
Today’s went to Mach 2 and got up to 170,000 feet, touching the Earth’s mesosphere before gliding down to a soft landing. It’s still not nearly to space; the Karman Line, where space “officially” begins, is about twice as high. But at this rate it sure just seems...
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