Virgin Galactic test flight fails after rocket motor fails to ignite

Virgin Galactic has been working on getting its SpaceShipTwo Unity ship into space. The unique launch system drops SpaceShipTwo from a mothership at altitude, and the intent is for SpaceShipTwo to ignite its rocket motor and proceed into space. Over the weekend, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier and pilots were supposed to take a test flight into space, but that flight failed to meet its goal.

SpaceShipTwo landed without issue after the motor failed to ignite when dropped from its mothership. Virgin Galactic says that after SpaceShipTwo was dropped from the mothership, its onboard computer in charge of monitoring the rocket motor lost connection. When the connection was lost, a fail-safe scenario was triggered that stopped the rocket motor's ignition.

When the motor failed to ignite, the pilots aboard the spacecraft glided back to Spaceport America and landed without issue. Colglazier says that when he became CEO of the company, he was briefed on the Spaceflight System's safety engineering purposely designed to enable the pilots to glide back to the airport at any point safely. The aborted mission gave the CEO opportunity to see firsthand how pilots could safely land after an "off-nominal condition."

Colglazier says that he's even more confident in the safety level that consumers want and expect after witnessing this firsthand. Virgin Galactic is currently evaluating all data captured during the mission, including information on the root cause assessment of computer communication loss. The company will share more information on its next flight window soon.

There is no clear information on the next available flight window or the root cause of the communications failure at this time. Presumably, when more information is available, Virgin Galactic will share.