Sci & Tech

Virgin Galactic Aborts First Powered Spaceflight From New Mexico

Virgin Galactic Aborts First Powered Spaceflight From New Mexico
Virgin Galactic Aborts First Powered Spaceflight From New Mexico

Richard Branson’s space tourism company Virgin Galactic had to abort its first powered test flight of its spaceplane from the company’s home in New Mexico, bringing the vehicle home before it could reach space. 
During the flight, the spaceplane’s engine cut out too early and the vehicle’s two pilots had to glide back down to the ground early.
The aborted engine ignition was caught live by a Twitch livestream provided by the outlet NASA Spaceflight. The video showed the spaceplane, called VSS Unity, dropping away from its carrier aircraft in midair as planned. The vehicle then briefly ignited its main engine, according to the video, but the ignition cut out after just a moment, The Verge reported. 
On a typical flight, the spaceplane’s engine will stay ignited for a full minute, propelling the vehicle to the edge of space.
Once the engine cut out, VSS Unity turned into a glider and returned to its launch site in New Mexico. The company confirmed that VSS Unity landed safely on a runway after the abort, and the flight’s two pilots, C.J. Sturckow and Dave Mackay, made it “back safe and sound”.
No passengers were on board this flight, though the vehicle was carrying a number of microgravity payloads for NASA. Virgin Galactic suggested it may replace the engine motor in the near future.
Today’s flight was meant to be the third time that Virgin Galactic sent VSS Unity to space and back. The previous two test flights, conducted in late 2018 and early 2019, took place out of the company’s test facility at the Mojave Air and Spaceport out of California. 
After those last tests, Virgin Galactic moved its operations to the company’s new, primary home, a glittering facility known as Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert. It’s from this facility that Virgin Galactic plans to conduct all of its commercial tourist flights.
While Virgin Galactic has conducted a few glide flights of VSS Unity from the spaceport before, the vehicle has yet to reach space from the facility. This flight was meant to be an important step as the company prepares to send its first passengers to space on VSS Unity from Spaceport America. 
With 600 initial customers signed up for flights, Virgin Galactic hopes to start flying commercial passengers for the first time in 2021. Branson, the company’s founder, is supposed to take his first flight next year, kicking off commercial operations.

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