Ten months after its unveiling, the space vehicle VSS Unity completed its first free flight on Saturday at the Mojave Air & Spaceport in the Antelope Valley.
Saturday’s flight was the fifth for Unity but the first in which it glided on its own for 10 minutes after being released by a carrier aircraft at an altitude of 50,000 feet. The spacecraft did not use its rocket engines.
“An initial look at the data as well as feedback from our two pilots indicate that today’s flight went extremely well, but we’ll take the time to properly and thoroughly analyze the vehicle’s performance before clearing the vehicle for our next test,” said a statement posted Saturday on the company’s website.
Unity was built for Virgin Galactic to take passengers up to an altitude of 62 miles above Earth to experience weightlessness. About 700 people have signed up to fly on the six-passenger craft, which would launch out of New Mexico.
Unity replaces the suborbital space vehicle that fatally crashed during a test flight in October 2014. It is the first vehicle to be fully constructed at the Spaceship Co., a Virgin Galactic subsidiary at the Mojave airfield.