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Sun, Aug 13, 2023

Virgin Galactic Completes Galactic 02 Mission

Galactic 03 Mission to Launch September 2023

Virgin Galactic, the California-based spaceflight subsidiary of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has successfully completed its Galactic 02 mission, the company’s first private space tourist flight -- though the aircraft got nowhere the 100km Karman line thought to define the border with space. .

By flying private space tourists Jon Goodwin of the United Kingdom, and Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, Galactic 02 achieved the following, ostensibly historic milestones:

  • First female space tourists from the Caribbean
  • First mother-daughter duo to go to 'space'
  • Most women flown in a single 'space' mission
  • Youngest person to go to 'space'
  • First Olympian to go to 'space'
  • First majority female spaceflight
  • The sixth and seventh Black women to go to 'space'
  • Second person with Parkinson’s to go to 'space'
  • Third oldest person to go to 'space'

The historic, 10 August flight saw Virgin Mother-Ship (VMS) Eve, a four-engine, twin-fuselage, twin-empennage behemoth named for Evette Branson, Sir Richard’s mother, lumber skyward from Virgin Galactic’s New Mexico Spaceport America facility at 08:30 MDT.

Slung beneath Eve’s center-wing section, Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Unity and its complement of three private astronauts readied to venture spaceward under the auspices of Virgin Galactic pilots C.J. Sturckow and Kelly Latimer.

Reaching an altitude of 44,300-feet, Unity separated uneventfully from Eve, dropped free of the massive mother-ship, and fired its hybrid rocket engine.

Accelerating to Mach 3.0, Unity climbed heavenward, reaching a 55-mile (290,400-foot) apogee and drifting awhile at space’s edge.

Unity’s return to Earth was nominal—a term denoting perfection in the clipped argot of spaceflight—culminating in a nicely-executed, 09:30 MDT landing back at Spaceport America.

Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier stated: “Today Virgin Galactic took another historic leap forward by flying our first private astronaut mission and demonstrating how our spaceflights will broaden access to space. Jon, Keisha, and Ana each embody our fundamental belief that space is for everyone, and we are proud that today’s flight has inspired people and communities around the world. This is just the beginning, as we plan to continue flying monthly spaceflights while also developing our Delta Class production spaceships to scale our business.”

VSS Unity commander C.J. Sturckow set forth: “It is a surreal and humbling experience to have flown Unity today. The wonder and excitement of spaceflight never loses its magic. I had the honor of being joined in the cockpit by Kelly Latimer, one of the first female commercial spaceship pilots. I’m proud of the work we’re doing here at Virgin Galactic to fly more people to space.”

VSS Unity pilot Kelly Latimer remarked: “In my entire career, from the Air Force Academy to being a test pilot for NASA, nothing tops what I have just experienced at the controls of VSS Unity. Going to space today fulfilled an ambition I’ve had since I was a child. It is a privilege to be part of a majority-women crew making history as the most female astronauts flying to space in a single mission.”

Virgin Galactic will now undertake post-flight inspections and analyses of Eve and Unity in preparation for the Galactic 03 mission, which is slated to launch in September 2023—thereby maintaining the monthly flight cadence to which Virgin Galactic aspires.

FMI: www.virgingalactic.com

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