The first commercial spaceline of the world, Virgin Galactic has successfully conducted the first unpowered flight test of its ‘feather’ re-entry system on the VSS Unity spacecraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, on Monday.
Piloted by Mark Stucky and Mike Masucci, the flight test is the fourth independent glide of the company’s VSS Unity suborbital rocket-powered spaceplane. But, it is the first to conduct a test on the unique ‘feather’ re-entry system of the spacecraft which is designed to carry paying passengers on brief excursions to the edge of space.
The mechanism allows the spacecraft’s twin tails to fold up so that it can provide aerodynamic braking and increase stability upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, ensuring the safety of the passengers on board.
Although the spacecraft is designed to reach at supersonic speeds using a hybrid liquid-solid rocket engine, the test was conducted without using a rocket power, because the mothership ‘WhiteKnightTwo’ which took Unity into sub-orbit was also carrying pilots Nicola Pecile and CJ Sturckow and flight test engineer Dustin Mosher.
The company said that it will take some time to completely analyse the data from the test, but as per the website, the initial reports from the pilots and from mission control are extremely encouraging.
After the data reviews are completed, Virgin Galactic will move forward with the testing. In future tests, Unity will activate its feather system after release to see how it works in flight before the spacecraft has to land. It will be tested in lower altitudes and a thicker atmosphere, as well.
Check out a video of Unity’s first feather deployment:
Information source: rt
Title image: spaceflightinsider