After Virgin Galactic’s success on Saturday, how soon can it fly again?

VSS <em>Unity</em> in space over New Mexico.

Enlarge / VSS Unity in space over New Mexico. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

On Saturday Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spacecraft flew above 80 km for the third time, completing a much-anticipated return to space following more than two years of downtime. The flight, which crested at an altitude of 89.2 km, was piloted by CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay.

“We will immediately begin processing the data gained from this successful test flight, and we look forward to sharing news on our next planned milestone,” said Michael Colglazier, chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic, after the mission.

The flight was significant for Virgin Galactic, as the last time VSS Unity successfully carried out a powered spaceflight came in February 2019. Since that time the company has undertaken a lot of work to prepare for commercial flights on its suborbital space plane. This includes moving its flight operations to New Mexico and at least beginning to upgrade the interior of its cabin for tourist flights. Although Virgin Galactic has not released photos of the spacecraft’s interior, some changes can be seen here.

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