VIRGIN GALACTIC has released footage showing the first successful powered test of its new SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity.
Designed for tourists who want to head into space, the spacecraft can be seen in mid-rocket burn as it goes supersonic.
While not technically entering space, the craft did reach an impressive altitude of over 80,000ft before cruising back down to ground and landing at Virgin Galactic’s base of operations.
This was the first successful powered test of Virgin Galactic’s new spacecraft since the tragic accident in 2014 which saw one of its spacecraft crash leaving one pilot dead and another seriously injured.
After the crash the Virgin Galactic team stayed grounded for over two years and instead started work on building SpaceShipTwo from scratch.
It’s believed the crash was caused by the design of the spacecrafts wings. They’re adjustable which allows the pilot to perform a manoeuvre known as ‘feathering’ that helps the pilot slow the plane on descent.
Unfortunately it appears as though the pilot unlocked the wings early while the plane was still accelerating causing staggering pressure to be placed on them, as a result the wings failed and the craft was torn apart.
SpaceShipTwo includes all-new safety features that should prevent this type of accident from ever happening again.
With the successful powered test now behind it, Virgin Galactic will no doubt start looking to ramp up operations in earnest as it heads towards its first commercial ‘tourist’ flight to space.