Tomorrow, June 29th, history will be made as Virgin Galactic launches its first-ever commercial spaceflight from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. The mission, called Galactic 01, will carry four passengers and two pilots to the edge of space, where they will experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. The flight will conduct 13 scientific experiments for the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy.
This is a huge milestone for Virgin Galactic, the company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, which aims to make space tourism accessible and affordable for anyone who dreams of going to space. The company has been testing its spaceflight system for years, and has flown six crewed flights so far, including the one that took Branson himself to space on July 11th, 2021. But this will be the first time that Virgin Galactic will fly paying customers, who have each shelled out $450,000 for a seat on the SpaceShipTwo vehicle VSS Unity.
The crew of Galactic 01
- Colin Bennett, Virgin Galactic’s lead astronaut instructor, who will oversee the cabin environment and customer experience.
- Pantaleone Carlucci, an engineer at the National Research Council of Italy, who will test a device that measures cosmic radiation in space.
- Walter Villadei, a colonel in the Italian Air Force, who will wear a smart suit that monitors his vital signs and biometric data.
- Angelo Landolfi, a lieutenant colonel and physician in the Italian Air Force, who will study the effects of microgravity on human blood samples.
- Michael Masucci, a former US Air Force lieutenant colonel and Virgin Galactic’s chief pilot, who will fly VSS Unity with co-pilot Nicola Pecile.
- Kelly Latimer and Jameel Janjua, two experienced US military pilots who will fly VMS Eve, the carrier aircraft that will launch VSS Unity at an altitude of 50,000 feet.
The flight is expected to last about 90 minutes, with about four minutes of weightlessness. The passengers will be able to unstrap from their seats and float around the cabin, which has 12 large windows for stunning views of Earth and space. They will also be able to conduct their experiments using specially designed equipment that can be attached to the cabin walls or held in their hands.
The mission will also test some new technologies that could improve future spaceflights, such as a new flight control system that allows VSS Unity to glide more smoothly during re-entry, and a new thermal protection system that protects the vehicle from extreme temperatures.
More to come
Virgin Galactic plans to launch more commercial flights in the coming months, with the next one scheduled for early August. The company has already sold more than 600 tickets to aspiring astronauts from around the world, and hopes to increase its flight frequency to once a week by 2026. It also plans to introduce a new “Delta-class” space plane that can carry more passengers and fly faster than VSS Unity.
If you want to witness this historic event live, you can watch it online on Virgin Galactic’s website or on Space.com. The livestream will start at 11 a.m. EDT (1600 GMT or 9 a.m. local time in New Mexico) on June 29th. Don’t miss this chance to see the dawn of a new era of commercial space travel!