Virgin Galactic announced that its VSS Unity spacecraft had successfully completed a glide flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico on April 26, 2023.
The mission, which is Unity’s 24th, consisted of a drop-off from 47,000ft for a glide time of around nine minutes. It was released at 07:47 and landed at 07:56 MST.
The goal of the glide flight was to collect data, particularly from aspects such as glide handling and flight controls, in preparation for an upcoming rocket-powered spaceflight.
“The data from this validation flight will clear the way for our return to space and, ultimately, lead to the launch of commercial service,” said Mike Moses, President of Spaceline Missions and Safety at Virgin Galactic.
Two pilots and four Virgin Galactic mission specialists will participate in the next mission, which will evaluate aspects such as the passenger experience and the adequacy of ground training. This will pave the way for the launch of commercial service later in Q2 2023.
Although both are active in space and are part of the Virgin Group, Virgin Galactic is a separate company from Virgin Orbit, which suspended operations earlier in 2023 and is facing serious financial difficulties.