Virgin Galactic has confirmed plans to launch its next spaceflight, ‘Galactic 06’, on or around 26 January 2024. The upcoming spaceflight comes after the listed company successfully operated six suborbital flights in six months this year, the latest being in early November which carried three customers, only one of which was a private astronaut.
Galactic 06 will carry four paying customers, heralding from three different countries – Ukraine, Austria and the United States. At this stage, Virgin Galactic hasn’t revealed the names or details of any of the next spaceflight’s customers, other than stating the US private astronauts are from Texas, (Astronaut 24) and California (Astronaut 26).
Incidentally, the CEO and Chairman of the luxury travel network, Virtuoso, Matthew Upchurch is from Fort Worth in Texas and is a ‘Founding Virgin Galactic Astronaut’ having bought a ticket and endorsed Sir Richard Branson’s space venture since 2007, putting him on the shortlist of potential early space travellers with the firm.
The Virgin Galactic crew for the next flight include VSS Unity Commander CJ Sturckow and pilot Nicola Pecile, along with VMS Eve Commander Michael Masucci and pilot Dan Alix.
Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said:
“Our inaugural year of commercial service demonstrated our spaceflight system’s ability to regularly deliver a safe and unparalleled customer experience for our astronauts and established new turn time records for reusable human spaceflight systems.
“We’re excited to begin 2024 by bringing four new Virgin Galactic astronauts to space with our ‘Galactic 06’ mission.”
Recenty, Colglazier said Virgin Galactic may ground VSS Unity after a handful of more flights in 2024, focusing the company’s energy on its next-generation ‘Delta class’ space vehicle which will carry more passengers in a single flight and has the potential to operate as much as twice weekly. The Delta class spacecraft is slated to begin flying in 2025.
This month Virgin Galactic also introduced a new ‘NXTGEN Astronaut’ program providing “priority access” to the next available space flights, as flagged first by LATTE.
Interestingly and perhaps strategically intended, Virgin Galactic’s rival commercial space operator, Blue Origin, released a media statement this week confirming its spacecraft, New Shephard, operated its 24th flight and 13th payload mission this week. Blue Origin’s program has also completed six astronaut missions and flown 31 humans above the Kármán line, the press release boasts.