Supplier Spotlight

Video Exclusives

VSS Unity spaceplane completes second test flight

Watch Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company's VSS Unity complete its second successful, supersonic, rocket powered test flight to an altitude of 114,500ft and a speed of Mach 1.9.

Click here to watch video

06 June, 2018

Space Launch System - in numbers

Discover how engineers are outfitting the world’s most powerful rocket with sensors, cables and other equipment in this 2:40 video.

Click here to watch video

15 May, 2018

Blue Origin launches and lands New Shepard rocket

Watch Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space tourism company Blue Origin successfully launch and land a used rocket and capsule.

Click here to watch video

02 May, 2018


To watch more videos, click here

In which decade was the first military drone used?


Virgin Galactic SpaceshipTwo passes speed of sound in flight test

VSS Unity rocket

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity fires its rocket engine during its successful test flight


Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity has successfully completed its first supersonic, rocket-powered flight, almost four years after the tragic loss of its predecessor VSS Enterprise during a test flight.


VSS Unity’s test flight from Mojave Air and Space Port in California, took off at 8:02am on April 5 with Mark “Forger” Stucky and Dave Mackay in the cockpit, attached to the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, piloted by Mike Masucci and Nicola Pecile.


Unity gliding during a test flight
VSS Unity gliding during a test flight 


The mated vehicles climbed to a launch altitude of around 46,500ft before VMS Eve executed a clean release of Unity. After a few seconds, Unity’s rocket motor was fired and the pilots aimed the spaceship upwards into an 80˚ climb, accelerating to Mach 1.87 during 30 seconds of rocket burn.


The hybrid rocket motor on VSS Unity runs on a nitrous oxide / Hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) compound and was designed, built and tested by The Spaceship Company, the company owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites.


After the rocket shutdown, VSS Unity continued an upwards coast to an apogee of 84,271ft before readying for the downhill return. At this stage, the pilots rotated up the vehicle’s tail booms to into the feathered configuration which increases drag and stability while descending.


This feathering design feature is key to a reliable and repeatable re-entry. Additional safety mechanisms have been incorporated into the spacecraft after the 2014 VSS Enterprise test flight accident, which occurred when the tail booms were repositioned too early.


At around 50,000ft, the tail-booms were lowered again and while jettisoning the remaining oxidizer, Unity turned towards Mojave for the glide home and landing.


The successful test flight follows two years of extensive ground and atmospheric testing and generated data on flight, motor and vehicle performance which engineers will review.


It also marks a key moment for the test flight program and marks the start of the final portion of Unity’s flight test program.


April 6, 2018



Written by Ben Sampson


Your email address:

Read Latest Issue

Read Latest Issue

Web Exclusives

Marine Dumont, business development manager, Kistler Instruments outlines how innovation in dynamometers is enabling clearer images of Earth from satellites 
Click here to read more

Steve Drake, NDT market manager for Ashtead Technologies, describes how the rapid deployment of the latest borescope equipment to Africa helped a business aviation operator make tough decisions about a grounded aircraft 
Click here to read more

Hardware-in-the-loop systems have helped to reduce flight testing of Saab's latest fighter jet, writes National Instruments in this case study
Click here to read more

An experiment is set to be launched from the International Space Station this month which turns the normal approach to space on its head – instead of putting things into space, this experiment aims to test ways to take things out of space. 
Click here to read more

Ergonomics and human factors is vital in aircraft but can be overlooked during testing and development. Here Nick discusses the latest trends and developments in cockpit design and testing.
Click here to read more

Supplier Spotlight

Supplier SpotlightClick here for listings and information on leading suppliers covering all aspects of the aerospace testing industry. Want to see your company included? Contact for more details.

Submit your industry opinion

Industry BlogDo you have an opinion you'd like to share with the aerospace testing community? Good or bad, we'd like to hear your views and opinions on the leading issues shaping the industry. Share your comments by sending up to 500 words to

Submit Your Recruitment Ad

Recruitment AdTo send us your recruitment advertising or to receive information on placing a banner please email