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Virgin Galactic’s third supersonic test flight hits Mach 2.4 and 170,000 feet

Virgin Galactic is celebrating the third profitable supersonic take a look at flight of VSS Unity, the passenger spacecraft it intends to make accessible for area tourism within the close to future. This flight took the craft increased and quicker than ever, stressing the system and offering helpful information for the rocket airplane’s engineers.

Virgin’s two-part flight system makes use of a conventional jet-powered airplane, the WhiteKnightTwo-class VMS Eve, to hold the spacecraft as much as about 45,000 ft, after which the latter detaches and zooms forward (and upward) on rocket energy.

Every of Unity’s flights has pushed its specs a bit additional: The first one, in April, achieved Mach 1.6 and simply over 84,000 ft of altitude. The second, in Could, hit Mach 1.9 and reached 114,500 ft.

At the moment’s went to Mach 2.47 and obtained as much as 170,800 ft, touching the Earth’s mesosphere earlier than gliding right down to a smooth touchdown. It’s nonetheless not practically to area; the Karman Line, the place area “formally” begins, is about twice as excessive. However at this fee it certain simply looks like a matter of time earlier than they rise up there. (Max velocity was initially reported as Mach 2 however up to date in an e-mail from Virgin Galactic.)

Importantly, the rocket powering Unity’s flight burned this time for 42 seconds, effectively over the 30 seconds or so it’s been fired for till now. These assessments essentially should advance diploma by diploma, however going from 30 to 42 is a giant leap that the engineers are in all probability thrilled about.

“Having been a U2 pilot and finished a variety of excessive altitude work, or what I believed was excessive altitude work, the view from 170,000 ft was simply completely superb,” stated one of many pilots, Mike “Sooch” Masucci, in a Virgin Galactic press release. “The flight was thrilling and albeit stunning. We have been capable of full a lot of take a look at factors which is able to give us good perception as we progress to our objective of business service.”

The staff is engaged on analyzing the information from this flight, and naturally inspecting and tweaking the spacecraft, and we are able to in all probability count on one other take a look at flight within the subsequent few months.

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