Virgin Galactic isn’t your typical aerospace manufacturing company. While it designs and manufactures space vehicles, Virgin Galactic is focused on tourism rather than commercial services. Nonetheless, the company founded by Sir. Richard Branson is one step closer to making space tourism a reality. On May 22, 2021, Virgin Galactic successfully completed its third test flight.
Virgin Galactic’s latest test involved its proprietary space vehicle, the VSS Unity. The VSS Unity was transported to an altitude of roughly 44,000 feet by a larger plane known as the VMS Eve. Upon reading this altitude, the VMS Eve released the VSS Unity.
While the VSS Unity is capable of gliding, it’s fitted with a rocket-powered engine to increase acceleration. Reports show that the VSS Unity achieved speeds of over Mach 3 during the recent test. This jolt of acceleration allowed the VSS Unity to essentially kick upwards through Earth’s atmosphere and into space. From there, the VSS Unity glided back down to Earth before landing at New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
When speaking about the VSS Unity’s recent text, Virgin Galactic’s Michael Golgazier said the company is now planning to analyze the gathered data. “The flight today was elegant, beautiful,” said Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier in a statement regarding the recent launch. “We’re going to analyze all the data that we gather on these flights. But watching from the ground and speaking with our pilots, it was magnificent. So now it’s time for us to do this again.”
SpaceX’s Elon Musk also gave his approval of Virgin Galactic’s successful test. In a Twitter post, Musk congratulated Virgin Galactic on its recent test. SpaceX, of course, is another space company. Rather than offering space tourism services, though, SpaceX offers commercial launch services for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well as other government and private companies.
Of course, Virgin Galactic still has plenty of work do to before it can begin offering space flights to the general public. Founded in 2004, Virgin Galactic is a spaceflight company that aims to offer zero-gravity flights to the public. Like many aerospace companies, it has experienced setbacks. Virgin Galactic had previously set a goal for 2009 operations, but this date was pushed back several times. Nonetheless, Virgin Galactic’s recent test moves the company one step closer to making space tourism a reality. If all goes, it may begin selling space flights within the next few years.