Virgin Galactic signs another deal to send a researcher into space
Fresh off the first flight to space from its new headquarters in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic has revealed plans to send a citizen scientist along for a future ride. Researcher and social-media personality Kellie Gerardi will be carried into space as part of a dedicated research flight facilitated by the startup, where she will carry out scientific experiments under weightlessness aboard the company's spaceplane.
The announcement of the new contract follows a similar agreement revealed last year, under which Virgin Galactic will send planetary scientist Alan Stern to space on a dedicated research flight. Meanwhile, the company continues to promote the space tourism side of its business, last year launching a drive for reservations for flights aboard its suborbital spaceplane.
Gerardi is a researcher with the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS), and will undergo a specialized training program ahead of the flight.
Once onboard, Gerardi will use what's described as an "Astroskin" bio-monitoring system, developed by Carré Technologies, to measure the biological impacts of launch, weightlessness, re-entry and then landing. A separate payload will be used to investigate free-floating fluids in space, for potential applications that include humidifiers for spacecraft and syringes for delivering medicine.
"We’re thrilled to work with Kellie Gerardi and the International Institute of Astronautical Sciences to help further their research in the bio-medical field," says Michael Colglazier, CEO, Virgin Galactic. "One of the unique aspects of our Spaceflight System is that it is pilot-flown, which means we’re able to fly different flight profiles that meet the needs of our passengers in the cabin – whether that’s scientific experiments or people – or in this case both."
There is no timeline offered for the training or when Gerardi's flight might take place, but Virgin Galactic will be looking to press ahead with its program on the back of its successful flight in May. In March, the company also revealed a new version of its spaceplane named VSS Imagine, which it expects to begin flight testing this US summer.
Source: Virgin Galactic