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VSS Unity Ready for TakeoffOn Sept. 8, 2016, the private spaceflight and space tourism company Virgin Galactic flew its second SpaceShipTwo - the VSS Unity - for the first time in a captive carry test with its mothership the VMS EVE.
The test flight took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California and lasted just under four hours. It was a major moment for Virgin Galactic: The company's first SpaceShipTwo - the VSS Enterprise - was lost during a tragic test flight accident in October 2014 that destroyed the spacecraft. The mission's co-pilot died in the crash and the surviving pilot suffered serious injuries.
In a Twitter statement, Virgin Galactic acknowledged the big emotions running through the entire team during the Sept. 8 test flight:
Today's an emotional day for us all. So grateful to our families, customers, & friends for sticking with us. Couldn't open space without you— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) September 8, 2016
Check out more photos from Virgin Galactic's first VSS Unity captive carry test in this slideshow.
First Flight of VSS UnitySlide 2 of 14
First Flight of VSS Unity
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo vehicles are designed to carry six passengers and two pilots on trips to and from suborbital space at a price of $250,000 per seat. The spacecraft is carried to launch altitude by its WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane, released so it can fire its rocket engine and ultimately glides back to Earth for landing.
During the Sept. 8 test Unity remained attached to its carrier plane at all times, but it did carry a two-pilot crew. Virgin Galactic pilots Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay were aboard the spaceship, while the VMS Eve mothership was flown by Mike Masucci and Todd Ericson, with Wes Persall serving as flight engineer. [Meet the Pilots of Virgin Galactic | Video]
The VSS Eve was built for Virgin Galactic by The Spaceship Company, a sister-company to Virgin Galactic that is also based at the Mojave Air and Space Port.Slide 3 of 14
New SpaceShipTwo & Mothership TogetherSlide 4 of 14
New SpaceShipTwo & Mothership TogetherThis photo, taken for Virgin Galactic by photographer Mark Greenberg, clearly shows how the company's WhiteKnightTwo carrier planes can carry SpaceShipTwo vehicles.
The VSS Unity (short for Virgin Spaceship Unity) is attached in the center of a massive wing on the twin-fuselage VMS EVE (Virgin Mother Ship Eve).
Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo is a four-engine aircraft and has a wingspan of 140 feet (nearly 43 meters).
The VSS Unity, meanwhile, was unveiled on Feb. 19, 2016, just over 15 months after the loss of the VSS Enterprise on Oct. 31, 2014. [Gallery: Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity Makes Its Debut]Slide 5 of 14
A Major Test FlightSlide 6 of 14
A Major Test FlightVirgin Galactic representatives said that captive carry tests like the one flown on Sept. 8 can offer key insights into a SpaceShipTwo's
One advantage of air-launch is that the carrier plane acts like a flying wind tunnel. Highest fidelity aerodynamic data!— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) September 8, 2016
From start to finish, the test ran about three hours and 43 minutes.Slide 7 of 14
Closer to SpaceSlide 8 of 14