Virgin Galactic is going to launch a test flight tomorrow which would be its first to reach space.
The news: This will be the fourth powered test flight of the company’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane (called VSS Unity) and its first since July. If it all goes to plan, the two pilots will experience an extended sensation of weightlessness and some “pretty spectacular views,” Virgin said.
The aims: Virgin Galactic says its goal is to fly higher and faster than previous flights, going much further than its previous record of 52 kilometers (32 miles) and burning the rocket motor for longer than they ever have in flight before—up to a full minute.
This will allow the company to collect important data, specifically on supersonic handling qualities and thermal dynamics. It will also carry heavier loads than before, to simulate the weight of passengers it plans to transport on suborbital flights.
The background: It’s taken many years of meticulous planning, design, and engineering work to reach this stage, not to mention overcoming huge setbacks. The previous iteration of the VSS Unity—the VSS Enterprise—was destroyed in a fatal crash in October 2014. Virgin Galactic is also racing Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to provide flights for wealthy space tourists.
The company has a record of overpromising and underdelivering over many years. Founder Richard Branson promised that suborbital flights would be operating by way back in 2009, so a degree of healthy skepticism is understandable. All we can do now is wait and see what happens tomorrow.
This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting
With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.
VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence
On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.
This artist is dominating AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it.
Greg Rutkowski is a more popular prompt than Picasso.
This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine
Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.