Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“the Company” or “Virgin Galactic”) today announced that VSS Unity successfully reached space, completing the Company’s fourth rocket-powered spaceflight.
Today’s flight was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The crew fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research and the effectiveness of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America.
Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Today is a landmark achievement for the Company and a historic moment for the new commercial space industry. With each successful mission we are paving the way for the next generation of astronauts. I want to thank our talented team, including our pilots and crew, whose dedication and commitment made today possible. They are helping open the door for greater access to space – so it can be for the many and not just for the few.”
VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve. The vehicle reached space, at an altitude of 53.5 miles, before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Spaceport America.
This seminal moment for Virgin Galactic and Sir Richard Branson was witnessed by audiences around the world. It gave a glimpse of the journey Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts can expect when the Company launches commercial service following the completion of its test flight program. A recording of the livestream can be accessed on Virgin Galactic’s YouTube channel.
Sir Richard Branson said: “I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space. We are at the vanguard of a new space age. As Virgin’s founder, I was honoured to test the incredible customer experience as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists and now astronauts. I can’t wait to share this experience with aspiring astronauts around the world.”
Branson continued, “Our mission is to make space more accessible to all. In that spirit, and with today’s successful flight of VSS Unity, I’m thrilled to announce a partnership with Omaze and Space for Humanity to inspire the next generation of dreamers. For so long, we have looked back in wonder at the space pioneers of yesterday. Now, I want the astronauts of tomorrow to look forward and make their own dreams come true.”
The mission specialists in the cabin were Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor; Colin Bennett, Lead Flight Operations Engineer; Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations; and the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The VSS Unity pilots were Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, while Kelly Latimer and CJ Sturckow piloted VMS Eve.
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Las Cruces New Mexico, 11 July, 2021
1. SOUNDBITE (English) Sir Richard Branson
"It's one of the best feelings of my life, and I've waited nearly 70 years for this and it's been a dream since I was a little boy building a cardboard, cardboard spaceships. And now to have had this wonderful team create this incredible spaceship and to have gone to space. I'm still pinching myself. Still not sure whether I'm going to wake up and realize it was all a dream."
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Sir Richard Branson
"It's a, it's so difficult to describe, I mean, you know, first of all, you have the the rush of going from naught to three mach and in seven or eight seconds, the noise and then the pressing back in the seat, then the sudden silence as you're drifting into space. And then the beauty is you look out of the window and see the earth below and and then when you unbuckle and you're just floating around looking at these beautiful views of our beautiful Earth. Yeah, I just it's. Oh, my God, it's difficult. It's just so beautiful. It's just so spectacular."
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Sir Richard Branson
"Well, look, I'm going to spend the next 20 or 30 years of my life just doing everything I can with all the resources to better this world, and most of the other 500 people who've been to space, have come back thinking, look at this spectacular well, let's see what we can do to protect the rainforest, protect the oceans, protect all the animals and the species and so on. And that's something which I will, you know, set to with a passion. And I think we'll find other astronauts will do the same."
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Sir Richard Branson Space Speech
"To all you kids down there. I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults looking down to our beautiful, beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers. If we can do this, just imagine what you can do” (exalts in joy)
5. Virgin Galactic take off
6. Astronaut walkout
7. Sir Richard Branson interacts with crowd, takes a group picture