Final frontier could be just around the corner

13 December 2018 09:12

Virgin Galactic will complete the test on December 20

Virgin Galactic will complete the test on December 20

Space tourism could move one giant leap closer this week as Virgin Galactic expects to reach "space altitudes" for the first time.

The company has announced its SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, has entered the next stage of testing, which will "expand the envelope for altitude, air speed, loads, and thermal heating".

To help take the aircraft and pilot into space for the first time, the rocket motor on the spaceship will burn for a longer period than ever before.

Micro-gravity

Virgin Galactic, founded by billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson, says the window for the next phase will begin on December 13, but the nature of flight testing means it may take longer to get to the milestone.

If the test flight in Mojave, California is successful, the two pilots on board will experience an extended period of micro-gravity but "will be strapped in throughout".

As well as higher altitudes, the company will also look to simulate the commercial weight distribution on the test flight in preparation for future passengers.

Extraordinary flight test

A spokesman for Virgin Galactic said: "Our window for our fourth powered test flight opens on December 13, 2018. At a basic level, this flight will aim to fly higher and faster.

"We plan to burn the rocket motor for longer than we ever have in flight before, but not to its full duration.

"Whether we complete all our objectives during the next flight or need to wait a little longer, we remain committed to completing the final stages of this extraordinary flight test program as quickly, but more importantly as safely, as possible."

More than 600 people from 50 different countries have reserved places to fly with Virgin Galactic.

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