After a recent deadly crash of its rocket plane, Virgin Galactic welcomes a new rocket plane to its family. Virgin Galactic is a spaceflight company and owned by the Virgin Group founded by Richard Branson. The new rocket plane is called VSS Unity. Virgin Galactic tweeted that the vessel name essentially came from Stephen Hawking himself, who is a supporter of the company’s future projects. In their Twitter feed, the company displayed the message from the well-known scientist: “If I am able to go & if Richard will still take me, I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship.”
However the launch of the new vessel conveyed excitement to a lot of people, the company said in their blog that they will not be doing any test flights anytime soon, as all near-term tests will be done on land. They wrote “If you are expecting SpaceShipTwo to blast off and head straight to space on the day we unveil her, let us disillusion you now: this will be a ground-based celebration.”
The VSS Unity is anticipated to be the first private space line with the purpose of directing tourists into space. The vessel is carried by Virgin’s twin-fuselage airplane WhiteKnightTwo to an altitude of 45,000 feet. Once this altitude is attained, the SpaceShipTwo vessel will detach itself from WhiteKnightTwo and turn on its own rocket motor to blast off into space.
This newly made vessel can transport two pilots and 6 tourists into suborbital trajectory, with passengers experiencing numerous minutes of weightlessness. Using a distinctive “feathering” method, SpaceShipTwo rotates its wings, growing its drag, and slows down to fall back to Earth.
It should also be noted that the earlier model of SpaceShipTwo, The Enterprise, had a deadly crash during a test flight two years ago. The crash caused the death of the co-pilot, and the second pilot was extremely injured.
The National Safety Transportation Board examined the crash that took place in the Mojave Desert, and determined that it was caused by a co-pilot error in terms of the feathering system. The co-pilot swapped the wings too early, triggering the plane to break apart in the sky.
Well let’s just hope this never happens again.