Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin Galactic”), a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, today announced that the flight window for the next rocket-powered test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity opens July 11, pending weather and technical checks.
The “Unity 22” mission will be the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and the Company’s fourth crewed spaceflight. It will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, who will be testing the private astronaut experience.
Building on the success of the Company’s most recent spaceflight in May, Unity 22 will focus on cabin and customer experience objectives, including:
- Evaluating the commercial customer cabin with a full crew, including the cabin environment, seat comfort, the weightless experience, and the views of Earth that the spaceship delivers — all to ensure every moment of the astronaut’s journey maximizes the wonder and awe created by space travel
- Demonstrating the conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments
- Confirming the training program at Spaceport America supports the spaceflight experience
For the first time, Virgin Galactic will share a global livestream of the spaceflight. Audiences around the world are invited to participate virtually in the Unity 22 test flight and see first-hand the extraordinary experience Virgin Galactic is creating for future astronauts. The livestream will be available to watch on Virgin Galactic.com and will be simulcast on the Virgin Galactic Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook channels. It is expected to begin at 7:00 am MDT / 9:00 am EDT on the day of the flight.
The flight’s four mission specialists will be:
- Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor at Virgin Galactic. Moses will serve as cabin lead and test director in space, overseeing the safe and efficient execution of the test flight objectives.
- Colin Bennett, Lead Operations Engineer at Virgin Galactic. Bennett will evaluate cabin equipment, procedures, and experience during both the boost phase and in the weightless environment.
- Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin Galactic. Bandla will be evaluating the human-tended research experience, using an experiment from the University of Florida that requires several handheld fixation tubes that will be activated at various points in the flight profile.
- Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. Branson will evaluate the private astronaut experience and will undergo the same training, preparation and flight as Virgin Galactic’s future astronauts. The Company will use his observations from his flight training and spaceflight experience to enhance the journey for all future astronaut customers.
The pilots for this mission are Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci flying VSS Unity, and CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer flying VMS Eve.
Following this flight, and in line with normal procedures, the team will complete inspections of the vehicles and an extensive data review, which will inform the next steps in the test flight program. Two additional test flights are planned before the Company expects to commence commercial service in 2022.
Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Our next flight—the 22nd flight test for VSS Unity and our first fully crewed flight test—is a testament to the dedication and technical brilliance of our entire team, and I’d like to extend a special thank you to our pilots and mission specialists, each of whom will be performing important work. Tapping into Sir Richard’s expertise and long history of creating amazing customer experiences will be invaluable as we work to open the wonder of space travel and create awe-inspiring journeys for our customers.”
Sir Richard Branson said: “I truly believe that space belongs to all of us. 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 honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”
You can download all press materials including images and broll from the Virgin Galactic Press Assets
About Virgin Galactic Holdings
Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. is a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, pioneering human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers with its advanced air and space vehicles. It is developing a spaceflight system designed to connect the world to the wonder and awe created by space travel and to offer customers a transformative experience. You can find more information at https://www.virgingalactic.com/
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Las Cruces New Mexico, 01 July 1, 20212021
1. Slate Copy: Meet the Unity22 Spaceflight Crew
2. Dave Mackay, Unity22 Chief Pilot
3. Michael Masucci, Unity22 Pilot
4. Sirisha Bandla, Researcher Experience
5. Colin Bennett, Cabin Procedures Evaluation
6. Beth Moses, Spaceship Cabin Lead & Test Director
7. Sir Richard Branson, Evaluating Customer Spaceflight Experience
8. Silhouetted spaceflight crew, backs to camera against a window
9. Various test flight aerials
10. Richard Branson speaking directly into camera
Soundbite (English) Sir Richard Branson
+Covered+ "Astronaut 001, Richard Branson. I'll be evaluating the customer spaceflight experience. As the Virgin Galactic founder I am so proud to have this remarkable crew of mission specialists and pilots by my side as we fly to space. I've always been a dreamer. My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars. This July, our dream will become a reality, and we're really excited to share that moment with you all. And when we return, I will announce something very exciting to give more people a chance to become astronauts because space does belong to us all. So watch this space."
11. Spaceflight crew group shot
12. Slate Copy: Global livestream on July 11 6am PT, 7am MT, 9am ET, 2pm BST
13. Slate Copy: Virgin Galactic, Previous Test Space Flight May 2021
14. Various clips of test flight