Aerospace company Virgin Galactic has announced the timing of the first test flight of the VSS Unity (SpaceShipTwo) suborbital spacecraft with engine start, which will be carried out from the American spaceport in New Mexico. The spaceplane can take off on December 11th.
This flight will be the third for VSS Unity to be flown from America, which will become a future passenger spaceport. However, the previous two test flights were performed in glide mode, without starting the engine. Unity last performed a test flight with the engine running at about Mach 2.9 almost two years ago in April 2018 at the Mojave Proving Grounds.
Initially, the spaceplane flight with the engine on was planned a little earlier this year, but due to the government’s imposition of restrictive measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had to be postponed. However, weather conditions permitting, Unity will be flying again next week.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still a serious problem, Virgin Galactic will minimize the number of people in the spaceport while testing Unity: there will be no media or guests, just key personnel.
It is reported that Unity will also carry several payloads to carry out experiments as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program.
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