Mojave Space Port - California

July 26, 2018

Virgin Galactic's manned spaceplane has hit another milestone, breaking Mach 2 as it roared into the mesosphere.

With test pilots Dave Mackay and Mike "Sooch" Masucci at the controls, VSS Unity was released from the mothership VMS Eve at an altitude of 46,500 ft (14,200 m) before firing its hybrid rocket engine for 42 seconds to power it to 170,800 ft (32.3 mi, 52 km) and a speed of Mach 2.47 (1,832 mph, 2,948 km/h).

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The July 26 morning flight over the Mojave Air and Space Port is the third powered flight in four months of the Unity as Virgin Galactic ramps up to eventual commercial flights to carry passengers and payloads into space on suborbital trajectories before returning to land like a glider.

It's also the first flight of the experimental spaceplane to reach the lower reaches of the mesosphere – the region of the atmosphere above the stratosphere ranging from 31 to 62 mi (50 to 100 km).

To be noted that The second-generation RocketMotorTwo engine is a variant of the earlier design, but isfueled by polyamide plastic fuel, while continuing to use the same nitrous oxideoxidizer.

The design also required the modification to the SS2 airframe to fit additional tanks in the wings of SpaceShipTwo—one holding methane and the other containing helium—in order to ensure a proper burn of the new engine.

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