Testing is over: Virgin Galactic readies for commercial operations

VSS Unity back in space after 676 days, Branson watches on from terra firma

Virgin Galactic successfully completed its latest test mission to space with a full crew from Spaceport America on Thursday (US time), as had been scheduled last week.

This morning’s spaceflight was a relatively low-key affair when compared to the last time VSS Unity rocketed away from Mothership VMS Eve into space, 676 days ago, carrying human headline and Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson. For this flight, Branson was watching on from terra firma at Spaceport America.

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Dubbed ‘Unity 25’, the spaceflight was the first time Virgin Galactic had trialed, in space, modifications made to the craft aimed at increasing the flight rate and reliability of the vehicle. Hence the delay of nearly two years between flights. The aerospace company tested those tweaks a month ago on a glide flight, as reported by LATTE.

‘Unity 25’ reached a top speed of Mach 2.94, apogee of 54.2 miles, and saw Mission Specialists Jamila Gilbert, Christopher Huie, and Luke Mays become the newest Virgin Galactic Astronauts.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic said: “The ‘Unity 25’ mission was a fantastic achievement for everyone at Virgin Galactic.”

“Witnessing our inspiring crew’s pure joy upon landing, I have complete confidence in the unique astronaut experience we have built for our customers.”

“Our teams now begin post-flight analysis as well as preparation for ‘Galactic 01’, our commercial research mission planned for late June,” Colglazier said.

Crew members Jamila Gilbert and Christopher Huie get a taste of space aboard Unity 25

Next month’s planned spaceflight will carry members of the Italian Air Force.

Virgin Galactic aims to, initially, operate its spaceflights on a monthly basis. Once its ‘Delta’ class of spaceship debuts in the coming years, the listed-company aspires to operate space flights on a weekly rotation.

Virgin Galactic is a partner of the Virtuoso luxury travel network.

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