Virgin Galactic to restart its flight test program for space tourism

Aerospace start-up Virgin Galactic’s new spaceship will start flight tests in Mojave in the “near future,” the company said Wednesday.

The first test for SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity at its unveiling in February, will be what the Long Beach firm calls a “captive carry,” in which the spaceship will stay attached to its carrier WhiteKnightTwo aircraft for the entire flight.

That test is intended to gather aerodynamic performance data on the vehicle, as well as testing one of the “abort modes” — when SpaceShipTwo stays “mated” to the carrier aircraft in case of a problem and returns to the airport.

Later, Virgin Galactic will progress to glide tests in which SpaceShipTwo will be released from its carrier aircraft and fly on its own.