Virgin Galactic has announced it will perform a test flight of the VSS Unity spacecraft from its new Spaceport America facility in New Mexico on 11 December, depending on weather conditions and technical readiness.
If the launch is a success, it would be the first time VSS Unity powers up its engines since February 2019, when it first reached the edge of space. The previous flights VSS Unity was involved in were all gliding flights instead of propulsive ones.
Virgin Galactic expects to fulfill a number of objectives with the test flight, including testing elements of the customer cabin as well as assessing the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during boost. The flight will also carry payloads as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program.
“This is an exciting announcement that demonstrates we have gotten back on track in a safe and speedy manner. New Mexico’s future on the cutting edge of aerospace development is brighter than ever,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic.
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) December 1, 2020
The test flight for VSS Unity was initially scheduled to take place earlier this year, but like with most other events in 2020, it pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.