Final Virgin Galactic test flight prepares the path for launch of operations 2023

At 9:15 a.m., the 25th test flight of the enterprise took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico. After being released by the carrier aircraft VMS Eve, the Unity spacecraft attained an altitude of 54.2 miles (87km) and a maximum speed of Mach 2.94 before landing at the Spaceport at 10:37.

The “Unity 25” mission was the fifth spaceflight for Virgin Galactic and the first since July 2021. Mike Masucci and CJ Sturckow piloted VSS Unity, while Jameel Janjua and Nicola Pecile flew VMS Eve. Chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, astronaut instructor Luke Mays, senior engineering manager Christopher Huie, and senior manager of internal communications Jamila Gilbert were also aboard the Unity.

Virgin Galactic will offer suborbital spacecraft flights to paying passengers who wish to experience weightlessness and the view from 50 miles above the Earth. It also intends to provide space on spacecraft for experimentation by researchers.

Virgin Galactic plans its first commercial trip later this month after completing its final crewed flight test.

Jamila Gilbert stated, “I flew to space within an hour of leaving the street where I grew up. This experience is difficult to describe, but I’m certain I’ll spend the remainder of my life attempting to do so.

“As one of the very few non-technical people to fly to space, my role in this mission marks a sea change in who can go to space and is a promising sign of the opportunities that Virgin Galactic and the commercial space sector are ushering in.”

“Unity 25 was a tremendous accomplishment,” said Michael Colglazier, the chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic. “After witnessing the pure joy of our awe-inspiring crew upon landing, I am completely confident in the distinct astronaut experience we’ve created for our consumers. Our teams are currently conducting post-flight analysis and preparing for Galactic 01, a commercial research mission scheduled for late June.”

Richard Branson, an entrepreneur, founded Virgin Galactic in 2004. The development program for its space tourism service has encountered several setbacks. In 2007, a rocket engine detonation claimed the lives of three individuals, and in 2014, the SpaceShipTwo test vehicle VSS Enterprise crashed, murdering the test pilot and injuring the co-pilot.

After an FAA investigation revealed that the spacecraft had deviated from its intended flight path during the 2021 mission, the company halted operations for longer than originally planned to refurbish Eve and Unity.

In 2026, Virgin Galactic intends to expand its fleet and passenger services with the Delta class, its third generation of spacecraft, and a new generation of mothership.

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