Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity Airborne Again

A ticket costs just $275,000.

Virgin Galactic VSS Unity
The Virgin Galactic VSS Unity flew again for the first time since last summer.Virgin/Twitter

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity last week completed its seventh flight over the Mojave Desert, the first since last summer. The flight was designed to validate work completed during recent months of downtime, including transonic flight performance, stability and control to ensure the vehicle is ready for the higher loads and forces of powered test flight.

After release from mothership VMS Eve at approximately 50,000 feet, pilots Mark "Forger" Stucky and Michael "Sooch" Masucci pushed Unity into a steep dive that brought the aircraft to approximately Mach 0.9, or about as fast as the machine can fly without igniting the rocket motor.

Water ballast used in these tests to replicate near normal flying weights was jettisoned at 22,000 feet to allow for a lighter weight landing. The VSS Unity flight also operated with the aircraft’s silver-film thermal protection system applied to ensure the heat loads created by air friction during rocket-powered boost and supersonic re-entry cause no damage to the vehicle.

The company says the passenger line to fly aboard a Virgin Galactic space tourism aircraft is already 700 people deep, despite the $275,000 per ticket price tag. No precise date yet for a first flight.