Flying out of its new Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert, space exploration company Virgin Galactic conducted its second successful gliding test of Unity, a SpaceShipTwo-class spaceplane on Thursday. The first flight for Unity was on May 1.
According to the company, the test involved the huge carrier plane Eve taking off with Unity in tow and releasing it at an altitude of 51,000 feet, after which it glided home, attaining a speed of 650 miles per hour.
“I am thrilled with the team’s hard work to complete today’s test flight successfully,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in a Thursday statement. “It was an important test that, pending data review, means we can now start preparing the vehicles for powered flight. Our focus for this year remains unchanged on ensuring the vehicles and our operations are prepared for long-term, regular commercial spaceflight service.”
If the test stands up to “an extensive data review,” then the company will move on to live rocket tests.
Eventually, Virgin Galactic aims to offer 90-minute trips to the edge of space in craft like Unity, which can carry six space tourists. The company has told its shareholders it expects to be profitable next year. Last month, founder Richard Branson announced he would sell off $500 million of his own stock in the company in an effort to salvage its financial solvency.