Update from Mojave: VSS Unity Loads Up for Latest Flight
Whatever might be said about Mojave – it is rarely a dull place!
Hot on the heels of yesterday’s exciting first appearance of the huge carrier aircraft from our Mojave neighbors Stratolaunch, our own vehicles took to the skies this morning for VSS Unity’s ninth test flight.
It was exactly a month ago that our spaceship last flew, successfully demonstrating its unique re-entry “feathering” mechanism for the first time in flight.
Today, VSS Unity pilots Dave Mackay and CJ Sturckow, had an equally busy test-card, but with the emphasis on proving the spaceship’s handling qualities, particularly at low speeds, with more weight on board than previously, and with a centre of gravity shifted towards the back of the vehicle.
This was achieved by loading around 1000lbs of water into a specially installed ballast tank in the rear of the spaceship’s fuselage. That enabled us to explore the flight conditions we will experience during rocket powered flights. By jettisoning the water ballast on descent, we were also able to confirm handling characteristics as the vehicle’s centre of gravity moved forward. Unity completed the flight with a safe and smooth landing in its lighter-weight configuration.
Today’s events represent another important milestone as we move towards the end of the of the initial glide test portion of the program and turn our attention to the spaceship’s propulsion system. To that end, as we analyse the data from today’s flight, we will be moving into a period of ground-based activity focussed on preparation for fuelled and then powered flights. As always, meticulous preparation and a focus on safety will determine next steps and timelines, but we expect to be back in the air in the not too distant future.