Virgin Galactic's passenger spaceship completes its third hypersonic test flight

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic's passenger spaceship VSS Unity has completed its third supersonic flight. It was the ship's highest and fastest test to date, hitting Mach 2.4 and a height of 170,800 feet.

The test helped Virgin Galactic gain data on supersonic aerodynamics and thermodynamics, as well as more experience at high altitudes.

After being lifted to 46,500 feet by carrier aircraft VMS Eve, pilots Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci lit Unity's rocket motor and pulled into a near-vertical climb for 42 seconds. The pair then made a successful landing at Mojave Air and Space Port.

To Italy – and beyond

Virgin Galactic is currently performing its test flights in California, but signed a deal with two European aerospace companies earlier this month to open a commercial spaceport in Italy.

The facility will house a new plane built by The Spaceship Company – Virgin Galactic's aerospace manufacturing arm – which will be available to both the Italian space agency and private individuals.

Over 700 strong-stomached holidaymakers have already booked tickets for a two-hour trip when Virgin Galactic begins its first commercial flights in the US.