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)
Owners and operators Virgin Galactic
In service 2017 (expected)[4]

VSS Unity[5] (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[6][7] and completed ground-based system integration testing in September 2016, prior to its first flight on 8 September 2016.[3][8][9]


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

VSS Unity, the second SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane for Virgin Galactic,[10] is the first SpaceShipTwo built by The Spaceship Company. The ship's name was announced on 19 February 2016.[5] Prior to the naming announcement, the craft was referred to as SpaceShipTwo, Serial Number Two.[11][12] There was speculation in 2004 that Serial Number Two would be named VSS Voyager,[13] an unofficial name that was repeatedly used in media coverage.[14][15][16] 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.[17]


The manufacture of Unity began in 2012.[2] The spacecraft's registration, N202VG, was filed in September 2014.[18] 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,[19] and initial ground tests were projected to be able to begin as early as late 2015,[20] after being projected as early as mid-2015 as of November 2014.[1][21][22] On 21 May 2015, Unity reached the milestone of bearing the weight of the airframe on its own wheels.[23] 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.[24][25]

VSS Unity is the second SpaceShipTwo to be completed; the first, VSS Enterprise, was destroyed in a crash in late October 2014.[10][15]

After rollout and unveiling, a phase of testing called "Integrated Vehicle Ground Testing" began on VSS Unity in February 2016.[9]

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.[26]

On 8 September 2016, Virgin Galactic commenced flight testing of Unity with a captive-carry flight.[8] 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.[27] On 3 November and 30 November, additional captive-carry flights took place.[28][29][30]

On 3 December 2016, Unity completed its first glide flight. It completed subsequent glide tests later in December, 2016, and in February and May, 2017.

In July, 2017, Richard Branson suggested that the craft was to begin powered tests at three-week intervals.[31]

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 tests flights.[32]

In October, 2017, though powered test flights had yet to begin, Branson suggested that Unity could reach space within three months, and that he could travel to space aboard a SpaceShipTwo within six months.[33][34]

List of test flights[edit]

Flight designation Date Duration Maximum altitude Top speed Pilot / co-pilot Notes
10 / GF06 04 August 2017 Mackay / Sturckow First flight with major propulsion components aboard.[35][36]
09 / CF01 01 June 2017 Mackay / Sturckow First Cold Flow Flight of VSS Unity[37]
08 / GF04 01 May 2017 Stucky / Masucci Fourth glide flight of VSS Unity; first test of feather re-entry system: F01[38]
07 / GF03 24 February 2017 Sturckow / Mackay Third glide flight of VSS Unity[39]
06 / GF02 22 December 2016 Stucky / Mackay Second glide flight of VSS Unity[40]
05 / GF01 3 December 2016 10 minutes[41] 16,800 metres (55,100 ft) Mach 0.6 Stucky / Mackay First glide flight of VSS Unity[42][43][44][45]
04 / CC04 30 November 2016 Test of minor modifications to VSS Unity[citation needed]
03 / CC03 3 November 2016 No release of VSS Unity due to strong winds
02 / CC02 1 November 2016 No release of VSS Unity due to strong winds [46]
01 / CC01 8 September 2016 15,240 metres (50,000 ft) Stucky / Mackay First captive carry flight of VSS Unity [4]
CCxx=Captive Carry Flight
GFxx=Glide Flight
CFxx=Cold Flow Flight
PFxx=Powered Flight

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Luke Villapaz (5 November 2014). "Virgin Galactic Hopes To Restart SpaceShipTwo Tests In Summer 2015". International Business Times. 
  2. ^ a b c Irene Klotz (5 November 2014). "New spaceship restoring hope after Virgin Galactic crash". Reuters. SpaceDaily. 
  3. ^ a b "Update from Mojave: VSS Unity's First Flight Test Completed - Virgin Galactic". virgingalactic.com. 9 September 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Virgin Galactic: SpaceShipTwo beginnt Flugerprobung". flugrevue.de. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  5. ^ a b @virgingalactic (19 February 2016). "Virgin Galactic announces new ship name" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  6. ^ "New SpaceShipTwo Rollout Friday". AVweb. 18 February 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  7. ^ "Virgin Galactic unveils new space tourism rocket plane". CBC News. 19 February 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "Virgin Galactic's new SpaceShipTwo gets off the ground, two years after fatal mishap". GeekWire. 2016-09-08. Retrieved 2016-09-08. 
  9. ^ a b "Update from Mojave: Testing Testing 1-2-3". Virgin Galactic. 2016-03-10. Retrieved 2016-03-15. 
  10. ^ a b "Mojave Update: SpaceShipTwo Construction". virgingalactic.com. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  11. ^ Rosenberg, Zach. "The Making of SpaceShipTwo". Air & Space Smithsonian. Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  12. ^ Crane, Rachel. "Inside Virgin Galactic's newest passenger spaceship". Inside Virgin Galactic's Space Tourism Rocket Factory. CNN. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  13. ^ "One small step for space tourism.." The Economist. 16 December 2004. 
  14. ^ Roll, Erin (2013-11-21). "Glen Ridge resident helping to launch commercial spaceflight". NorthJersey.com. Retrieved 2015-11-09. 
  15. ^ a b Dean, Lewis (2014-10-31). "Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Crash: Pilot Dies After 'Serious' In-Flight Problem". International Business Times. Retrieved 2015-11-09. 
  16. ^ Harlow, John (2014-11-09). "Virgin: Our spaceship will be flying by April". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 2015-11-09. 
  17. ^ USA Today (2016-02-19). "New Virgin Galactic spacecraft gets rock star unveiling". Youtube. 
  18. ^ "N202VG is Reserved". FAA. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-05. 
  19. ^ Jonathan O'Callaghan (21 April 2015). "Virgin Galactic will fly again: Company prepares to test new spacecraft after fatal 2014 crash". Daily Main (London). 
  20. ^ "Virgin Galactic 'to test new craft by end of year'". The Telegraph (London). 21 April 2015. 
  21. ^ "Virgin Galactic CEO Sees New Spacecraft Ready Next Year". Reuters. Newsweek. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-02. 
  22. ^ Alan Boyle (5 November 2014). "The Next SpaceShipTwo Takes Shape in Virgin Galactic Hangar". NBC News. 
  23. ^ Alan Boyle (22 May 2015). "Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo 2.0 Puts 'Weight on Wheels'". NBC News. 
  24. ^ Plautz, Jessica; Kramer, Miriam (2015-11-02). "Richard Branson: Virgin Galactic's next space plane is coming in February". Mashable. Retrieved 2015-12-03. 
  25. ^ "Video - Virgin Galactic: second SpaceShipTwo to be rolled out on 19 February". aeronewstv.com. 14 January 2016. 
  26. ^ Jeff Foust (14 October 2015). "SpaceShipTwo Bounces Back to Rubber Fuel". SpaceNews. 
  27. ^ Tariq Malik (1 November 2016). "Virgin Galactic Postpones 1st Glide Test with New SpaceShipTwo". Retrieved 4 November 2016. 
  28. ^ "Virgin Galactic Looks to Its Next SpaceShipTwo Flight Test". inverse.com. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  29. ^ Messier, Doug (4 November 2016). "Last Minute Scrub of SpaceShipTwo Glide Flight". parabolicarc.com. Retrieved 5 November 2016. 
  30. ^ "Virgin Galactic conducts captive carry flight of SpaceShipTwo". spaceflightinsider.com. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  31. ^ Einhorn, Bruce (5 July 2017). "Branson Aims Mid-2018 Space Trip as Virgin Resumes Powered Tests". Bloomberg. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  32. ^ Sheetz, Michael (7 September 2017). "Virgin Galactic is returning to powered flights, CEO says, in a crucial next step for the spaceship company". CNBC. Retrieved 8 September 2017. 
  33. ^ KOB.com web staff (9 October 2017). "Virgin Galactic founder says spaceflights could be months away". KOB.com. Retrieved 13 October 2017. 
  34. ^ Klotz, Irene (12 October 2017). "Virgin Galactic Hopes To Test SpaceShipTwo In Space In 2017". aviationweek.com Aerospace Daily & Defense Report. Retrieved 13 October 2017. 
  35. ^ http://newatlas.com/virgin-galactic-flight-test-engine/50791/
  36. ^ "Update from Mojave: VSS Unity Flies with Propulsion Systems Installed and Live". Virgin Galactic. 4 August 2017. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 
  37. ^ Wall, Mike (1 June 2017). "Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity Makes 5th 'Glide Flight' (Photos)". space.com. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  38. ^ "Update from Mojave: First Feather Flight of VSS Unity Completed". Virgin Galactic. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2017. 
  39. ^ Malik, Tariq (25 February 2017). "Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Aces 3rd Glide Test Flight". space.com. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  40. ^ Boyle, Alan (22 December 2016). "Virgin Galactic sneaks in just one more SpaceShipTwo glide test to cap off 2016". GeekWire. Retrieved 23 December 2016. 
  41. ^ "Update from Mojave: Successful First Glide Flight Test for VSS Unity - Virgin Galactic". Virgin Galactic. 2016-12-03. Retrieved 2017-03-20. 
  42. ^ "Bransons "VSS Unity" absolvierte ersten Gleitflug". krone.at. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  43. ^ "Virgin Galactic spaceship makes first glide flight". phys.org. 3 December 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  44. ^ David Millward (4 December 2016). "Virgin Galactic's space programme moves forward as SpaceShipTwo carries out first successful glide test". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  45. ^ Weston Williams (5 December 2016). "Space tourism: Virgin Galactic makes successful glide test". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 5 December 2015. 
  46. ^ "Virgin Galactic Postpones 1st Glide Test with New SpaceShipTwo". space.com. Retrieved 5 December 2016.