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Tue 6 Dec 2016 11:38 AM

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Virgin Galactic's new spaceship completes first glide flight

Abu Dhabi-backed company made latest test flight with VSS Unity

Virgin Galactic's new spaceship completes first glide flight
Virgin Spaceship Unity

Virgin Galactic’s new spaceship - VSS Unity –successfully completed its first free flight with a glide test over the Mojave Desert.

The US-based company’s first spaceship broke apart in 2014 during its fourth rocket-powered test flight when the co-pilot prematurely unlocked a system used for slowing the vehicle during re-entry into the atmosphere.

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The latest test flight was the fifth flight of VSS Unity. The craft - 60-feet long and a wingspan of 42 feet - is designed to carry six passengers in addition to the two-person crew.

“Today’s important test flight marks the first time that a vehicle built by our sister organisation, The Spaceship Company, has flown fully under its own control,” the company said.

VSS Unity, piloted by Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay, was flying light and slow, achieving a maximum speed of approximately Mach 0.6 while gliding home from an altitude of 50,000 feet.

“This glide flight was the first of many. We have not yet reached the rocket powered phase of the test flight program - first we need to gather test flight data to confirm our analyses and calculations about how VSS Unity will perform in a wide variety of real-world flight conditions,” the company said.

Virgin Galactic is owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Aabar Investments of Abu Dhabi.

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