Crew should experience near zero gravity conditions.
The next test flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo from Mojave Space Port California could happen as soon as today or tomorrow according to a statement from the company. The VSS Unity is expected to carry its test-pilot crew to the beginnings of space. “Overall, the goal of this flight is to fly higher and faster than previous flights. We plan to burn the rocket motor for longer than we ever have in flight before …,” Virgin Galactic said.
The flight should carry Unity into the mesosphere where the thin air will allow the spacecraft to gain speed and altitude rapidly and where the pilots are expected to experience a near zero-gravity flight for the first time.
The mesosphere is the layer of the atmosphere that begins roughly 30 miles above the earth’s surface, although some experts believe the flight could reach the 50 mile point. The International Space Station currently orbits at 200 miles above the earth.
The flight will collect new and important data points about how the Unity performs at higher altitudes and speeds, including supersonic handling qualities and thermal dynamics.
No firm date has yet been announced for the first passenger flight. One hundred fifty seven people have already paid Virgin Galactic a deposit against the $200,000 first flight cost in order to someday experience space flight.