VSS Unity

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VSS Unity
Type Scaled Composites Model 339 SpaceShipTwo
Manufacturer The Spaceship Company
Construction number 2 [1]
Registration N202VG [2]
First flight 8 September 2016[3] (captive carry flight)
3 December 2016 (glide flight)
5 April 2018 (powered flight)
Owners and operators Virgin Galactic

VSS Unity[4] (Tail number: N202VG[2]), previously referred to as VSS Voyager, is a SpaceShipTwo-class suborbital rocket-powered manned spaceplane. It is the second SpaceShipTwo to be built and will be used as part of the Virgin Galactic fleet.

The spacecraft was rolled out on 19 February 2016[5][6] and completed ground-based system integration testing in September 2016, prior to its first flight on 8 September 2016.[3][7][8]

Overview[edit]

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Unity rollout, 19 February 2016, FAITH hangar, Mojave, California

VSS Unity, the second SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane for Virgin Galactic,[9] is the first SpaceShipTwo built by The Spaceship Company. The ship's name was announced on 19 February 2016.[4] Prior to the naming announcement, the craft was referred to as SpaceShipTwo, Serial Number Two.[10][11] There was speculation in 2004 that Serial Number Two would be named VSS Voyager,[12] an unofficial name that was repeatedly used in media coverage.[13][14][15] The name Unity was chosen by British physicist Stephen Hawking. Hawking's eye is also used as the model for the eye logo on the side of Unity.[16]

History[edit]

The manufacture of Unity began in 2012.[2] The spacecraft's registration, N202VG, was filed in September 2014.[17] As of early November 2014, the build of Unity was about 90 percent structurally complete, and 65 percent complete overall. As of April 2015, Unity was approximately 75% complete,[18] and initial ground tests were projected to be able to begin as early as late 2015,[19] after being projected as early as mid-2015 as of November 2014.[1][20][21] On 21 May 2015, Unity reached the milestone of bearing the weight of the airframe on its own wheels.[22] The spaceship was unveiled at a rollout event on 19 February 2016,[citation needed] as Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson had projected in November 2015; ground and flight testing commenced thereafter.[23][24]

VSS Unity is the second SpaceShipTwo to be completed; the first, VSS Enterprise, was destroyed in a crash in late October 2014.[9][14]

After rollout and unveiling, a phase of testing called "Integrated Vehicle Ground Testing" began on VSS Unity in February 2016.[8]

Test flight program[edit]

VSS Unity will undergo a test regimen similar to VSS Enterprise, then will embark on testing beyond what Enterprise experienced. The test flights are expected to be fewer, as Enterprise has already tested the design's responses under numerous conditions. For each flight test, the White Knight Two aircraft carries Unity to altitude. Testing began with captive carry flights, in which Unity was not released from its carrier aircraft. Testing then progressed to free-flight glide testing, and will continue with powered test flights. It is possible that only 2-3 flights under each regime previously tested will be performed, instead of the 5 or 10 that Enterprise performed.[25]

On 8 September 2016, Virgin Galactic commenced flight testing of Unity with a captive-carry flight.[7] On 1 November 2016, Virgin Galactic conducted another captive-carry flight of Unity but cancelled the glide portion of the flight because of wind speed.[26] On 3 November and 30 November, additional captive-carry flights took place.[27][28][29]

In July 2017, Richard Branson suggested that the craft was to begin powered tests at three-week intervals.[30] In September 2017, CEO George Whitesides suggested that engine testing was complete, and that only a "small number of glide flights" remained before VSS Unity would begin powered test flights.[31] The first powered flight test took place on 5 April 2018 when a 30-second rocket firing accelerated Unity to a speed of Mach 1.87 and an altitude of 84,271 ft (25,686 m).[32][33] The first powered test flight of Unity exceeded the altitude of all powered test flights of its predecessor, Enterprise.[34]

List of test flights[edit]

Legend

Code Detail
GFxx Glide Flight
CCxx Captive Carry Flight
CFxx Cold Flow Flight
PFxx Powered Flight
Fxx Feathering deployed
Flight designation Date Duration Maximum altitude Top speed Pilot / co-pilot Notes
01 / CC01 8 September 2016 15.2 km (50,000 ft) Stucky / Mackay [35]
02 / CC02 1 November 2016 Strong winds, no release during flight intended as GF01[36]
03 / CC03 3 November 2016 Strong winds, no release during second attempt at GF01[citation needed]
04 / CC04 30 November 2016 Test of minor modifications[citation needed]
05 / GF01 3 December 2016 10 minutes[37] 16.8km (55,000 ft) Mach 0.6 Stucky / Mackay [38][39][40][41]
06 / GF02 22 December 2016 Stucky / Mackay [42]
07 / GF03 24 February 2017 Sturckow / Mackay [43]
08 / GF04 1 May 2017 Stucky / Masucci F01[44]
09 / CF01 1 June 2017 Mackay / Sturckow [45]
10 / GF06 4 August 2017 Mackay / Sturckow First flight with major propulsion components aboard.[46][47]
11 / GF07 11 January 2018 Mach 0.9 Stucky / Masucci [48][49][50][51]
12 / PF01 5 April 2018 25.7 km (84,300 ft) Mach 1.87 Stucky / Mackay F02[52]
13 / PF02 29 May 2018 34.9 km (114,501 ft)[53][54] Mach 1.9 Mackay / Stucky Test of changed center of gravity as passenger seats carried for first time. F03[55]
14 / PF03 26 July 2018 52 km (170,800 ft) [56] Mach 2.47[56] Mackay / Masucci[57] Reached Mesosphere for first time.[58]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c Irene Klotz (5 November 2014). "New spaceship restoring hope after Virgin Galactic crash". Reuters. SpaceDaily. Archived from the original on 7 December 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
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