LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic on Friday unveiled the Spaceship Unity. Nearly 16 months after the tragic accident of Enterprise during a test flight, the spaceflight company remains optimistic about bringing commercial space flights into reality.

Once he heard the news, Stephen Hawkins said he would not want to miss the dream-like experience of flying on Unity.

“If I am able to go, and if Richard will still take me, I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship,” said Hawking, the author of “The Theory of Everything”.

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic on Friday unveiled the Spaceship Unity. Photo credit: Ricky Carioti / The Washington Post
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic on Friday unveiled the Spaceship Unity. Photo credit: Ricky Carioti / The Washington Post

Spaceship Unity will go through several tests on the ground for full-vehicle examination to see how safer than Enterprise it really is.

If the tests happen to be successful, Virgin Galactic will then carry out glide testing and captive carry flights. Spaceship Unity has the same design than the first machine, as it was already being developed when Enterprise crashed, but the company says the new one has additional safety features inside.

How Spaceship Unity is safer than Enterprise

In October 31, 2014, Enterprise’s former co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed in the tragic crash, while Pilot Peter Siebold was thrown from the aircraft above the Mojave Desert and managed to survive.

The terrible accident was acknowledged as a piloting error, as it was made known that Alsbury prematurely deployed the feathering mechanism while the aircraft was still reeling from a powerful ascent.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said Spaceship Unity has a new pin that avoids the accidental unlocking of a feathering mechanism on the aircraft’s tail, which should make a big difference between the second and the first spaceship. Whitesides explained that the feather-locking system will certainly help in the descent of the spaceship.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed Scaled Composites, the aerospace company that built Enterprise and hired the pilots, for the tragic crash. In addition, it cited the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its soft regulations.

According to a report by Tech Times, the FAA does not want to impose harsh restrictions and end up hampering innovations in spaceflight manufacturing. The administration has guidelines regarding national security, the safety of the environment and the safety of people on ground, but the aerospace firms have freedom around their flight tests.

Source: Tech Times