The test flight, which will lift off from New Mexico's Spaceport America, had been scheduled to take place between Nov. 19 and Nov. 23
Virgin Galactic will fly to suborbital space in the second week of December, if all goes according to plan. The window for the third crewed spaceflight of VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic’s latest SpaceShip Two space plane, opens on Dec. 11, company representatives announced.
The test flight, which will lift off from New Mexico’s Spaceport America, had been scheduled to take place between Nov. 19 and Nov. 23. A recent surge of Covid-19 infections across the State nixed that plan, however, and the company will take pains to ensure that safety comes first during the newly announced window.
The two-pilot, six-passenger SpaceShip Two takes off from a runway beneath the wings of a carrier plane known as WhiteKnightTwo. At an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), the space plane drops free and makes its own way to suborbital space with the aid of its onboard rocket motor.
VSS Unity has reached space twice to date, on test flights in December 2018 and February 2019. Both of those missions lifted off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in southeastern California, near the headquarters of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing subsidiary.
The upcoming third test flight will be the first from Spaceport America, the hub of Virgin Galactic’s coming commercial operations. The mission will also be the first human spaceflight to lift off from New Mexico, company representatives have said.
About 600 people have booked a ticket to ride SpaceShipTwo, at a price (most recently) of $250,000 per seat. Virgin Galactic is not currently selling tickets but intends to resume doing so early next year, after Virgin Group founder Richard Branson flies aboard VSS Unity.
VSS Unity won’t be the only SpaceShipTwo flying for much longer. The Spaceship Company is currently building two other vehicles, one of which is expected to roll out of the factory in early 2021, Virgin Galactic representatives have said. The company’s hangar at Spaceport America can accommodate five SpaceShipTwos and two WhiteKnightTwos simultaneously.
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