Virgin Galactic‘s maiden commercial service – earmarked to operate next month – has been given the rather non-original flight name of ‘Galactic 01’. In an update to investors last week, Virgin Galactic reconfirmed that commercial flights remain on travel for Q2 2023, sticking to a time frame it proposed nine months ago.
Ahead of Virgin Galactic’s first paying passenger space service, and as previously flagged, will be another test flight dubbed ‘Unity 25’. It will be the 25th flight of VSS Unity and the 5th spaceflight.
Virgin Galactic’s last flight into space was on 11 July 2021 – the much-hyped and first fully crewed flight that included Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson. That was 676 days ago.
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The flight window for Unity 25 will open in a week’s time, from 25 May 2023. Onboard VSS Unity will be Mike Masucci, Commander and CJ Sturckow, Pilot, and crewed by Jamila Gilbert and Christopher Huie, both Mission Specialists; alongside Luke Mays, Astronaut Instructor and Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor on her third flight to space with Virgin Galactic.
“Returning to space is what we have all worked towards. Our mission specialists were selected for their diverse expertise, and they couldn’t be better suited to validate the astronaut training program and overall experience,” said Mike Moses, President of Spaceline Missions and Safety.
“After this flight we will begin flying our customers to space,” Moses said.
The mission objective will be to validate the Astronaut experience in advance of next month’s planned first commercial flight.
Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic said: “We are excited to return to space with the ‘Unity 25’ mission planned for the end of May, and we are actively readying for commercial service to begin in late June.
“Concurrently, we are making steady progress on the development of our Delta Class spaceships, the driver of revenue growth and profitability in the business,” he said. The Delta Class craft is being designed to operate on a weekly rotation, supporting the Virgin Galactic’s target of 400 flights per year from Spaceport America.
“Our strong cash position, combined with focused cost discipline and strategic investments in our growth initiatives, will enable our business to scale over the long-term,” Colglazier told investors.
The first commercial flight has been assigned to the Italian Air Force and a crew of three who will carry out a range of experiments onboard.
Virgin Galactic has a backlog of more than 800 ‘Astronauts’ on its books. The cost of a seat to space with Virgin Galactic is now US$450,000.