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Virgin Galactic Completes Glide Test Ahead Of Powered Flight

Virgin Galactic conducted a successful glide test of their VSS Unity spacecraft in New Mexico, marking the final step before the company can resume powered flight and begin commercial operations.

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Jay Keegan

Jay Keegan

Wed Apr 26 2023Written by Jay Keegan

Virgin Galactic, a suborbital space tourism company, emerged from the hangar once again this morning and took to the New Mexican skies over Spaceport America to conduct a glide test of the companies VSS Unity spacecraft.


On Wednesday morning, Virgin Galactic’s VMS Eve took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico, and released the VSS Unity spacecraft at an altitude of approximately ​​14 km before turning to the spaceport. The spacecraft, piloted by Virgin Galactic’s CJ Sturckow and Nicola Pecile, then began a glide sequence returning to Spaceport America successfully. 


While VSS Unity never ignited her engines for this flight, it marks the final test before Virgin Galactic can once again begin powered flight after almost 2 years.


The objectives of the flight were to test the spacecraft in the glide phase of flight, continue evaluation of Spaceship Two controls, and to gather data on the new mothership pylon with the spaceship attached during climb and release.


Following today’s test, Mike Moses, President of Spaceline Missions and Virgin Galactic Safety says that the flight was “one of the final steps towards commercial spaceline operations,”. The company says the team will analyze the data gathered over the coming weeks to clear the vehicle for powered flight. 


The company hopes to achieve powered flight, carrying 2 pilots and 4 Virgin Galactic employees, to assess the customer experience and ground training prior to commercial flights. Currently, this flight is targeted for this quarter (Q2), however delays are possible as the team  works through the data.


The flight on Wednesday was significant because it was the first time VSS Unity flew without its carrier aircraft since July 2021. During that previous flight, VSS Unity took Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, along with employees Beth Moses, Sirisha Bandla, and Colin Bennett, to an altitude of approximately 85 km.


Meet The Pilots




Kelly LatimerVMS Eve
Jameel JanjuaVMS Eve
CJ SturckowVSS Unity
Nicola PecileVSS Unity