February 21, 2024

The carrier aircraft VMS Eve, seen in the background shortly after the launch of VSS Unity, ignites and accelerates during the company’s fourth spaceflight test, Unity 22, carrying founder Richard Branson on July 11, 2021 .

virgin galactic

virgin galactic It will be available as early as May 25 next space flight, It’s the first in nearly two years since the flight’s founder Sir Richard Branson, and the final step it plans to take before commencing commercial service.

The mission, called Unity 25, is the company’s fifth spaceflight to date, launching from Spaceport America in New Mexico. It was a “final evaluation” flight with six Virgin Galactic employees on board for an excursion to the edge of space.

The update comes after a longer-than-anticipated refurbishment period for the company’s spacecraft: Months after the Branson flight, the company suspended its planned “8-to-10″ flight following an FAA investigation into an accident during its trip. 8 hours” of operation 10 months” – but it ended up taking nearly 16 months.

Virgin Galactic shares rose nearly 7 percent Wednesday to close at $4.50 a share. The company’s first-quarter results earlier this month showed a widening loss as it financed the development and expansion of its spacecraft fleet.

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In-house pilots Mike Masucci and CJ Sturckow will fly the spacecraft VSS Unity, while Jameel Janjua and Nicola Pecile will fly the carrier aircraft VMS Eve. Inside the cabin will be Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, Astronaut Instructor Luke Mays, Senior Engineering Manager Christopher Huey and Senior Manager of Internal Communications Jameela Gilbert.

Virgin Galactic’s approach to space tourism is to fly to an altitude of about 40,000 feet, release the spacecraft and fire up the engines to climb more than 80 kilometers (or about 262,000 feet) — an altitude that the United States considers the frontier of space.

Unlike the longer, more difficult and more expensive orbital flights by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, this type of spaceflight, known as suborbital flights, offers passengers several minutes of weightlessness. After flying his own spacecraft in 2021, Branson told CNBC that he hopes to fly with SpaceX.

Based on the results and data collected from Unity 25, the company aims to execute its first commercial mission in “late June.”

Space tourism is a niche market, so why are Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin betting on it?