Following an rocket motor failure on its last test, Virgin Galactic has confirmed that SpaceShip Two Unity's next rocket-powered flight will take place on Saturday May 22nd. "Following a detailed inspection and thorough analysis of our mothership, Eve, we have cleared our Spaceflight System for our upcoming flight," said CEO Michael Colglazier in a statement.
The key aim of the mission is to test the repairs done on Unity after the rocket engine cut out prematurely due to electromagnetic interference (EMI) caused by a flight control computer. That triggered a fail-safe abort just as the rocket engine ignited, forcing the vehicle to glide back to its home base at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
It will also carry out tests meant to be performed on the last mission, including horizontal stabilizer and flight control assessments, along with customer cabin elements and live stream capability. All data gleaned from the flight will be reviewed and "inform the next steps in the test flight program," the company said.
Two test pilots will crew the flight, which will also carry research payloads from NASA's Flight Opportunities program. The test was originally set to take place in February, but was delayed until May. That in turn caused Virgin Galactic to push commercial space tourism flights ahead to 2022, rather than this year as planned. There's no set time yet for Saturday's flight, which is dependent on "weather and technical checks."