Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, was unveiled on 19th February 2016. VSS Unity is the first vehicle to be manufactured by The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s wholly owned manufacturing arm. VSS Unity is currently undergoing exhaustive testing prior to entering commercial service.
Like SpaceShipOne before it, SpaceShipTwo uses a unique system to safely re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. With this system, SpaceShipTwo can mimic the performance of a capsule or of a winged vehicle at the appropriate parts of its trajectory. Each of those vehicle types on its own offers important advantages: winged vehicles provide gentle deceleration and precision landing accuracy but require extremely high precision and advanced thermal protection systems, while capsules require less precision and less advanced thermal protection, but subject astronauts to much harsher decelerations and less accurate landings. By changing its configuration in flight, SpaceShipTwo can benefit from the advantages of both types.