LOS ANGELES (AP) – Virgin Galactic said on Thursday that it is expected to launch the first manned test flight into space from New Mexico this month.
The company’s spacecraft, VSS Unity, has made two previous test flights from Mojave, California, before moving to its facility at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The testing there has included flightless flights without energy and is now a space flight scheduled for November 19 to 23.
The space airport will serve as the Virgin Galactic’s facility to take passengers high on short Earth trips, starting with billionaire founder Richard Branson next year. The company did not announce a specific date for that event.
Unity is designed to be carried overhead underneath a special carrier jet and dropped at high altitudes where its rocket engine is activated.
Suborbital flights are designed to send craft to a minimum altitude of 50 miles (80 km) before it descends and glides to a landing on a runway.
In addition to passengers, Unity can perform small science experiments and will do so during this month̵7;s flight, generating some revenue through a NASA program.
Virgin Galactic has also made progress on the second spacecraft in its planned fleet and plans to deploy it in the first quarter of 2021, CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement. .