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Virgin Galactic Is Launching its First Fully Crewed Spaceflight… with Richard Branson On Board

If all goes well, the next rocket-powered test flight of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Unity will be jetting off next week. And they’ll have a very important crew member with them, too – Sir Richard Branson.

The flight window for the launch will begin on Sunday, 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.

What will they be doing?

Building on 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
  • Demonstrating the conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments
  • Confirming the training program at Spaceport America supports the spaceflight experience

You’ll be able to watch from home, too. There’s going to be a global livestream of the spaceflight for the very first time. The livestream will be available to watch on VirginGalactic.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.

To infinity… and beyond

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.”

Virgin Galactic Crew
The view of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Unity, including Astronaut Richard Branson

Who else is on board?

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.

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