Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity is all set for entering into the next test of testing at the end of which, hopefully, and eventually, the spaceship will reach space for the first time. But before reaching space, it will be tested for airspeed, loads and thermal heating. Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline owned by Virgin Group and Mubadala Investing Company.
VSS Unity was airborne only after passing all the ground tests to join her carrier aircraft, VMS Eve. VSS Unity also went through a series of glide tests to finally join the three successful rocket-powered supersonic flights. Every stage of a test meant for the spaceship has its own quirky bends and problems and Virgin Galactic is bound to come face to face with unplanned and unforeseeable problems. But the whole team is using meticulous planning and preparation to deal with problems that may arise unannounced.
Incremental flight tests depend on the data from the preceding tests, so the team is taking extra caution to make sure that they do not go wrong anywhere and to improve future performance. Virgin Galactic will have to pay extra attention to crew safety especially since the SpaceShipTwo is attended by two pilots. If any problem is to arise, the whole programme will go through changes including the canceling or changing plans either before in-flight.
The plan of the fourth test flight scheduled to take place on 13th December 2018 is to fly higher and faster than previous flights. The data collected from the burning of the rocket motor and the added additional altitude will decide their future decision of at what point do they need to shut the rocket motor down. Virgin Galactic is relying on and is a part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program for their simulation of the commercial weight distribution in the spaceship represented by future passengers.