Virgin Galactic Just Cut Short Key Test Flight Of Space Plane
Virgin Galactic today cut short the first test flight of its rocket-powered tourist plane.
The milestone test flight marked the first crewed flight of Virgin Galactic’s Unity vehicle, which took off from the purpose-built commercial spaceport in New Mexico.
Richard Branson’s space tourism company had been aiming to send its vehicle to an altitude as high as 50 miles to test its cabin experience, but the journey was cut short soon after take-off.
‘Pilots and vehicles back safe and sound,’ the company said in a Twitter post this afternoon. Although a reason as to why the journey was cut short wasn’t immediately provided, Virgin Galactic soon clarified in a further tweet.
The tweet read:
Early update on flight: The ignition sequence for the rocket motor did not complete. Vehicle and crew are in great shape. We have several motors ready at Spaceport America.
The company went on to explain it would ‘check the vehicle’ and ‘be back to flight soon’.
At the time of take-off, in accordance with coronavirus health and safety regulations, there was a reduced team onsite and the flight was conducted by essential personnel only. No guests or media representatives were permitted onsite.
Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic CEO, said in a press release:
With safety as our core priority, we remain committed to completing our first powered flight in New Mexico. In accordance with local government guidelines and safety protocols, we have minimised the number of people onsite to the greatest degree possible.
While on this occasion no media or guests will be allowed onsite, our team will endeavour to capture and share the beautiful images with the world after the flight has been completed. We look forward to completing this important milestone in our test flight program in the coming weeks.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said:
I’m grateful to Virgin Galactic, as I am to every business in our state, for their commitment to safety in this difficult time.
This is an exciting announcement that demonstrates we have gotten back on track in a safe and speedy manner. New Mexico’s future on the cutting edge of aerospace development is brighter than ever.
As reported by BBC News, Virgin Galactic will begin launching space tourism flights from 2021 onwards.
At the time of writing, more than 600 paying customers – including high-profile celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio – have already booked their flight tickets.
Today’s flight was the first of three upcoming final demonstration flights that will be carried out before the commercial service kicks off.
The craft will be manned by former NASA astronaut CJ Sturckow and Galactic chief test pilot Dave Mackay.
Virgin Galactic will be providing live updates about the test flight via Twitter.
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