Main Engine Cut Off

Virgin Galactic Aborts Flight Immediately After Engine Start, Lands Safely at Spaceport America

Virgin Galactic on Twitter:

After being released from its mothership, SpaceShipTwo Unity’s onboard computer that monitors the rocket motor lost connection. As designed, this triggered a fail-safe scenario that intentionally halted ignition of the rocket motor.

Glad that everyone made it to the ground safely, but this is rough timing for Virgin Galactic. All the pomp around them having relocated VSS Unity to Spaceport America, talking up the fact that they’ll be starting commercial flights next year, and then this kind of thing comes up.

It’s been 22 months since the last powered flight of VSS Unity, and I have no idea how long we’ll wait until the next one. Their competitor Blue Origin is not pushing a much faster cadence, either, but I have a little bit of hope that the New Shepard cadence will change in 2021.

Another thing that really annoys me about Virgin Galactic is the lack of a stream or any coverage other than some live tweeting. Couple that with the seeming unwillingness to post a full, end-to-end video of any flight of SpaceShipTwo, and…well, that’s a weird feeling I can’t shake. Are they purely overly cautious given the history here? Do they lack confidence in the flight and vehicle? Both?

Luckily for us, Jack Beyer and the NASASpaceflight crew sleuthed out the flight, had a stream going, and posted excellent photos of the flight.