Virgin Galactic set to carry first passengers into space this month
Virgin Galactic is set to carry passengers into space on its spaceplane VSS Unity for the first time later this month. The flight window for the Unity 22 mission, which will consist of two pilots and four mission specialists, one of whom is Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson, opens on July 11.
The impending launch of SpaceShipTwo Unity comes on the heels of the craft's first flight from Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America facility in New Mexico and the certification of the company by the US FAA to carry passengers. However, the company stresses that the launch date for the suborbital flight depends on the weather and technical readiness.
As the name suggests, Unity 22 will be the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity, and Virgin Galactic's fourth flight into space. The purpose of the test flight is to gather data about the spacecraft, including the cabin environment, seat comfort, passenger weightlessness, and the view of the Earth from the passenger area, as well as the efficacy of the Spaceport America training program for its customers. Sir Richard will be tasked with evaluating the "private astronaut experience."
The Unity 22 mission will be flown by pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, with CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer in the VMS Eve mothership, which will carry Unity aloft before releasing it to ascend under its own power. Aside from Sir Richard, the mission specialists will include Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor; Colin Bennett, Lead Operations Engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations.
"I truly believe that space belongs to all of us," says Sir Richard. "After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good. It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality. As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honored to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin."
The flight will be livestreamed on the Virgin Galactic Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook channels beginning at 9:00 am EDT. If successful, there will be two more test flights before commercial service begins in 2022.
Source: Virgin Galactic