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Virgin Galactic eyes spaceship test flight window to correct previous mission’s failure

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Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc (NYSE:SPCE) said the next window to chance to test its spacecraft will open later this month after its previous SpaceShip2 mission failed in December.

The company said it will have the opportunity for a test flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity from Saturday, February 13 until the end of the month, depending on weather conditions and technical readiness. 

READ: Virgin Galactic set to return to earth after rocket fails to reach space

With this flight carrying research payloads for the NASA Flight Opportunities program, Virgin Galactic said pre-flight preparations are underway at its New Mexico based, wth pilots having completed two practice flights with the spacecraft’s mothership, VMS Eve, in the intervening period.

“A key objective of the upcoming flight will be to test the remedial work that has been completed since the December 12, 2020, flight when the onboard computer halted ignition of the rocket motor,” the company said.

The technical team has carried out an analysis of the cause of the failure of the December test flight and has now completed the corrective work and carried out extensive ground testing, it added.

“The next stage will be to assess and verify this work during a rocket-powered flight.”

READ: Virgin Galactic soars as more analysts get on board space tourism story

As planned in December, the flight aims to evaluate elements of the customer cabin, testing the live video stream capability from the spaceship to the ground and assessing the ship’s horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during the ‘boost phase’ when the spacecraft disconnects from the mothership and its own rockets begin to fire.

Virgin Galactic chief executive Michael Colglazier said: “We are pleased to be able to get back to the skies and continue our flight test program. I would like to thank our team for their continued hard work and diligence in working towards this important milestone for Virgin Galactic.”

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