Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc., a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, 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 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, Richard Branson, who will be testing the private astronaut experience.
For the first time, Virgin Galactic will share a global livestream of the spaceflight. Audiences around the world are invited to participate virtually in the Unity 22 test flight and see the first-hand experience Virgin Galactic is creating for future astronauts.
Virgin will broadcast a livestream of the spaceflight on its website, as well as on its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. It is expected to begin at 7:00 am MDT / 9:00 am EDT on the day of the flight.
Alongside Branson will be three Virgin Galactic mission specialists: Chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, and government affairs VP Sirisha Bandla.
The pilots for this mission are Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci flying VSS Unity, and CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer flying VMS Eve.
Following this flight, and in line with normal procedures, the team will complete inspections of the vehicles and an extensive data review, which will inform the next steps in the test flight programme. Two additional test flights are planned before the company expects to commence commercial service in 2022.
Speaking about the new mission, Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Our next flight—the 22nd flight test for VSS Unity and our first fully crewed flight test—is a testament to the dedication and technical brilliance of our entire team, and I’d like to extend a special thank you to our pilots and mission specialists, each of whom will be performing important work. Tapping into Sir Richard’s expertise and long history of creating amazing customer experiences will be invaluable as we work to open the wonder of space travel and create awe-inspiring journeys for our customers.”
Richard Branson added: “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.”