Virgin Galactic prepares for another attempt to reach space

Virgin Galactic is looking to shrug off a failed flight in mid-December, with plans for another attempt to reach space in around a fortnight’s time. The company says it has investigated the reasons it came up short in its last outing, as it pursues its vision of one day carrying private passengers into space.

Last year, Virgin Galactic moved its operations to a new home in New Mexico, dubbed Spaceport America, and has been building up its testing program, carrying out unpowered glide tests and a range of in-flight maneuvers.

The end game here is to have the VMS Eve dual-fuselage mothership carry the smaller SpaceShipTwo eight-seat spaceplane to high altitude, where it is released and fires up its own rockets, propelling itself into space. Virgin Galactic had hoped to reach space for a third time in mid-December following two successful attempts in 2018 and 2019, but a rocket failure cut the mission short.

The company says it has since analyzed the root cause of this incident, in which an onboard computer prevented the rocket’s motor from firing, and has now corrected the issue and performed “extensive” testing on the ground. It is also carrying out preparations for its next flight, including test runs with the VMS Eve mothership.

Virgin Galactic hopes to use the upcoming test flight to assess certain elements of its customer cabin during flight, test out live streaming capability down to the ground, and evaluate horizontal stabilizers and flight controls. Obviously, it will also offer an opportunity to ensure the repairs and corrections the company has made since December hold up in flight.

“We are pleased to be able to get back to the skies and continue our flight test program,” says Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic. “I would like to thank our team for their continued hard work and diligence in working towards this important milestone for Virgin Galactic.’’

The flight window for Virgin Galactic’s next test opens on February 13.

Source: Virgin Galactic

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