Virgin Galactic announces first fully crewed spaceflight

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The Virgin Galactic Unity 22 crew

Virgin Galactic has announced that the flight window for the next rocket-powered test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity opens July 11, pending weather and technical checks.

The “Unity 22” mission will be the 22nd flight test for VSS Unity, and Virgin Galactic’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 Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who will be testing out the private astronaut experience.

For the first time, Virgin Galactic will livestream the test flight for everyone to watch along at home.

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.
  • Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. Branson will evaluate the private civilian 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.

With this flight, if everything goes as expected, Virgin Galactic (and Sir Richard Branson) will be a few days ahead of Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin space flight.

Source: Tania Steere (Virgin)

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