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November 2nd, 2016

Scrub-A-Dub-Dub For WhiteKnightTwo's Release Of VSS Unity

A glide flight test of Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft was planned to release the spaceplane VSS Unity on November 1 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Hopes were high, but so were the winds that prevented the crew from releasing SpaceShipTwo in flight for a glide test.

Folks watching were warned about the high winds with a series of tweets. “Crosswinds were high & gusty here in Mojave–which scrubbed the glide portion of today’s flight. Still, valuable data gathered.” Virgin Galactic said it would reschedule the glide flight “soon” but no further specifics were offered.

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo, with SpaceShipTwo attached, takes off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California November 1 on what was to be the first glide flight of the vehicle. Credit: Virgin Galactic 

The test flight was not announced in advance, but word escaped during a presentation at The Explorers Club in New York October 29. “It’s ready to fly, and I’m really looking forward to seeing that,” said the company's test pilot, CJ Sturckow. There was a successful “captive carry” flight of the vehicle, after an initial test flight in September in which the WhiteKnightTwo, with SpaceShipTwo still attached, landed back in Mojave.              

When the flight takes place it will be the first in a series in which the flying characteristics of the craft will have to pass muster. Then the powered test flights begin with SpaceShipTwo’s hybrid rocket motor.

In an October interview Mike Moses, president of Virgin Galactic, said, “There’s 10 glide flights’ worth of targets. We could do those in 8 flights, or might take 15, but we’re not going into the next phase before we clear those.”