Subscribe Free
in Space

Virgin Galactic relocates SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity to Spaceport America

Posted 18 February 2020 · Add Comment

Virgin Galactic has successfully completed another vital step on its path to commercial service, relocating SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, to its commercial headquarters at Spaceport America’s Gateway to Space building in New Mexico.


Courtesy Virgin Galactic


VSS Unity, attached to the carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, made the journey from Mojave, California, where the Company’s manufacturing facilities are based. The vehicle landed at 15:49MT, 13th February, where it was greeted by an enthusiastic group of teammates who will operate the spaceship in New Mexico.

This captive carry flight provided an opportunity for engineers to evaluate VSS Unity for over three hours at high altitude and cold temperatures, a longer period of time than is experienced during missions to space. These environmental evaluations of system performance are difficult to replicate at ground level, making captive carry missions a vital component of VSS Unity’s flight test plan.

The flight also provided a valuable opportunity to conduct pilot training and familiarisation, with veteran Italian Air Force Test Pilot Nicola ‘Stick’ Pecile joining Chief Pilot Dave ‘Mac’ Mackay in the cockpit of the spaceship for the first time. Nicola is the fifth pilot to complete a flight in VSS Unity. VMS Eve was piloted by Mike ‘Sooch’ Masucci and Frederick ‘CJ’ Sturckow.

The move of the spaceship to Spaceport America marks a key step in the relocation of Virgin Galactic’s to the state of New Mexico. In May 2019, Virgin Galactic announced that as part of this move, approximately 100 teammates would move to New Mexico from Mojave, California, Spaceport America would become operational and the vehicles would be transferred to the Gateway to Space.

Today, nearly all of those team members have relocated, the spaceport is operationally ready and both VMS Eve and VSS Unity have now arrived. Of Virgin Galactic’s total current New Mexico work force, more than 70 team members have been hired locally, the result of a conscious effort to attract New Mexico-based talent.

“New Mexico is going to be the world’s launchpad for commercial spaceflight,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “Today marks another step closer: We will have a genuine Space Valley in Southern New Mexico, a hotbed of innovation and achievement and space tourism development. I congratulate Virgin Galactic’s workers, George Whitesides and Sir Richard Branson on today’s successful flight – and once again I say to them: Welcome to New Mexico, we’re very glad to have you.”

“When Virgin Galactic started moving to New Mexico last year, everyone felt the sheer magnitude of the task ahead but we were encouraged and excited by the team’s confidence and strong vision for the future,” said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic. “Today we realised the next step in that dream by bringing our beautiful spaceship to New Mexico.  We still have significant work ahead but we are grateful to all our teammates who have made this day a reality.”

The relocation of VSS Unity to Spaceport America enables the Company to engage in the final stages of its flight test programme. This will begin with a number of initial captive carry and glide flights from the new operating base in New Mexico, allowing the spaceflight operations team to familiarise themselves with the airspace and ground control. Once these tests are complete, the team will carry out a number of rocket-powered test flights from Spaceport America to continue the evaluation of VSS Unity’s performance. During this phase, the final spaceship cabin and customer experience evaluations will also be concluded in preparation for the start of commercial spaceflight operations.

The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s design, testing and manufacturing arm, remains firmly rooted in Mojave, California. While VMS Eve and VSS Unity are now based in New Mexico, they will make periodic journeys back to Mojave to support ground and flight tests of new spaceships, as well as for vehicle maintenance and upgrade activities. There is significant progress being made on the next two spaceships, including achieving the Weight on Wheels milestone for the second spaceship and completing over 50% of the structural and system part fabrication for the third spaceship, which were announced in January.

Dan Hicks, Spaceport America’s Executive Director, congratulated the Virgin Galactic team: “This truly is the dawn of a new era for the commercial space sector. We are tremendously proud of our foundational partner Virgin Galactic – as we see and support their historic progress in making human space flight a reality for our beautiful world. The New Mexico and Spaceport America leadership will continue our strong support for our visionary Virgin Galactic teammates; and we are looking forward to an exciting 2020.”

 

 

Other Stories
Advertisement
Latest News

Boeing to deliver AH-64E Apache Helicopters to three allied countries

Boeing and the U.S. Army have finalised orders from three nations to provide their armed forces with the new, more capable AH-64E Apache model.

Airbus Helicopters resilient in 2020

In 2020, Airbus Helicopters logged 289 gross orders in a challenging market heavily impacted by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summer sun is cold comfort to north African airlines

It was hoped that the summer period would give north African airlines the chance to recover from the early blows dealt them by the coronavirus pandemic. However, as Vincent Chappard and Anuradha Deenapanray report, the results were not

46% of Middle East luxury travellers plan to holiday abroad in 2021

The latest data analysis produced by YouGov for Reed Exhibitions, the organiser of Arabian Travel Market (ATM), has revealed that 46% of luxury travellers in the Middle East, are planning to travel internationally at some stage during

Vertis Aviation adds Legacy 600 to its fleet

Switzerland-based bespoke charter specialist, Vertis Aviation has added an Embraer Legacy 600 to its fleet which it will exclusively market for charter as part of the Vertis Charter Management Programme.

Qatar Airways to trial IATA Travel Pass COVID-19 ‘Digital Passport’ Mobile App

Qatar Airways joins Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways to trial the IATA Travel Pass ‘Digital Passport’ mobile app.

NAVDEX 2021 SK26221
See us at
IDEX 2021 BT26221Aviation Africa 2021 BTNNWorld Defence Show 2022Aviation MENA 2021