Earlier this week, Virgin Galactic conducted the second powered flight test of its spaceplane, the VSS Unity, over the Mojave Desert just 54 days after the company ignited the vehicle’s engine for the first time during flight.
It marks another successful in-flight engine burn for the spacecraft, nearly four years after a previous version of the vehicle fatally crashed.
With each new test, Virgin Galactic gets closer to sending paying customers to space.
Unlike most launch vehicles that take off from the ground, Unity is designed to take off from under the wing of a giant white airplane.
On Tuesday, the carrier aircraft, known as WhiteKnightTwo, took off from Virgin Galactic’s facilities at Mojave Air and Space Port with the spaceplane in tow.
The giant plane hoisted the Unity to a height of 45,600 feet before releasing it into the atmosphere.
From there, the vehicle’s engine ignited, carrying the spaceplane’s two pilots — Dave Mackay and Mark Stucky — to nearly 22 miles above the Earth’s surface and reaching a top speed of Mach 1.9, which is nearly twice the speed of sound.
During its first powered flight, Unity reached Mach 1.87 and an altitude of nearly 16 miles
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