Text: AeroZentrum | Photo: www.virgingalactic.com
After a brake for several months which involved extensive analysis, testing and small modifications, test pilots Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky and Michael ‘Sooch’ Masucci tested transonic glide flight performance, stability and control in Mojave, California, USA.
The spaceship was released from the mothership VMS Eve and immediately pushed into a sharp descent, accelerating to Mach 0.9 which is around the maximum airspeed aircraft can achieve without igniting the rocket motor.
Each glide flight is essentially a dry run for a rocket-powered test flight in which the water ballast is added to simulate the weight and positioning of the rocket motor. The water ballast is jettisoned at around 22,000 feet, allowing the pilots to land in a lighter configuration.
TPS - thermal protection system was fully applied simulating the conditions like heat loads generated by air friction during rocket-powered boost and supersonic re-entry.
Congratulations to Forger and Sooch, as well as VMS Eve crew, CJ Sturckow, Kelly Latimer and Richard Starke, for a well-executed flight, supported of course by the Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company teams on the ground.
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