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VSS Unity Flies With Propulsion Systems Installed And Live

Sixth Glide Test Includes A Major First For The New Suborbital Spacecraft

The sixth glide test of Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity was conducted in Mojave, CA Friday, and for the first time, the propulsion system for the suborbital spacecraft was installed and "live" ... but not engaged.

According to a post on the Virgin Galactic Blog, "with the exception of the rocket motor fuel grain, called the CTN (Case-Throat-Nozzle), Unity flew with all the spaceship’s principle propulsion components on-board and live.  This meant that Unity took off with her forward pressurant tank loaded with helium and for the first time, her centrally positioned Main Oxidizer Tank fully charged with nitrous oxide. In a repeat of the last flight, Unity also carried a ballast tank in the rear fuselage filled with 1000 lbs of water to simulate the weight and positioning of the CTN.

"As planned, the pilots tested the venting of the nitrous tank while still mounted on the carrier aircraft.  The procedure proceeded smoothly, as Eve and Unity climbed past 40,000 feet and approached the drop point. After a clean separation from Eve and an approach-to-stall test, Unity’s tail-booms were raised into their re-entry position for the second time in flight.

"Once back into the normal glide configuration, the pilots used the descent to execute the remaining test points, including a high-g pull-up maneuver and bank-to-bank rolls. Unlike the previous glide test, the water ballast in the rear tank was not jettisoned, allowing us to test the spaceship’s  performance with a heavier landing weight and a center-of-gravity towards the back of the vehicle."

"We are really pleased with what we saw today. We collected hundreds of gigabytes of data for us to review, and from the pilots’ point of view, it felt really wonderful," said Chief pilot David Mackay after the flight. "All of you here at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company should be very proud: VSS Unity is a great spaceship!”

(Image courtesy Virgin Galactic)

FMI: Blog Post

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