Virgin Galactic VSS Unity spaceplane completes glide test

Virgin Galactic has completed another successful glide test flight of its VSS Unity spaceplane, the company's second version of SpaceShipTwo.

The test, which comes almost three years since Virgin Galactic's catastrophic crash, marks a key step towards the firm's goal of sending tourists into space next year.

So far, more than 700 potential customers - including celebrities Brad Pitt, Katy Perry and Ashton Kutcher - have reserved a spot on one of the suborbital trips at a cost of $250,000 (£200,000) each.

Scroll down for video 

Virgin Galactic has completed another successful glide test flight of its VSS Unity (pictured) spaceplane, the company's second version of SpaceShipTwo

VIRGIN GALACTIC CRASH

In October 2014, SpaceShipTwo - a plane designed to run the first ever passenger flights into space - split into pieces as it fell to Earth over California's Mojave Desert.

The vehicle broke up after the co-pilot unlocked the craft's tail wing breaking system early, which led to a sudden increase in aerodynamic forces as it passed through the sound barrier.

Investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said no safeguards were built into system to overcome the error of the co-pilot.

It took two years for the company to regain approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly SpaceShipTwo again. 

Founded in 2010 with the aim of taking paying customers to space and back again, tragedy struck the project in 2014 when a catastrophic SpaceShipTwo test flight crash killed one pilot and injured another.

It took two years for the company to regain approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly SpaceShipTwo again.

The latest test saw VSS Unity sent up from California's Mojave Air and Space Port attached to a twin-fuselage White Knight carrier airplane.

Once the two crafts had reached 50,000ft (15,000m), Unity was released for an unpowered descent back to the space port.

The test saw the first time Unity's Main Oxidiser Tank was filled with nitrous oxide.

The spaceplane is designed to enter space via suborbital rocket flight, and if further tests go to plan could begin commercial flights as early as next year.

'Our major first today though was that with the exception of the rocket motor fuel grain, called the CTN (Case-Throat-Nozzle), we flew with all the spaceship's principle propulsion components on-board and live,' the company said in a blog post describing the test.

During the flight, as with previous tests, Unity dumped 450 litres of water, simulating the shift in weight that would normally be caused by rocket fuel.

Unlike other commercial spaceflight companies, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin,

read more from dailymail.....

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks

NEXT Aliens could be living in the acid clouds of Venus say Nasa (but they are ...