Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity Completes First Fully Crewed Spaceflight



July 11, 2021

MIAMI – VSS Unity, Virgin Atlantic's fourth rocket-powered spacecraft, was successfully launched into space today fully crewed with the company's founder.

Today's voyage was the VSS Unity's 22nd test flight and the first with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company's founder, Sir Richard Branson.

According to the aerospace and space travel company, VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve. The vehicle reached space, at an altitude of 53.5 miles, before gliding to a runway landing at Spaceport America (90NM).

Formerly the Southwest Regional Spaceport, Spaceport America is an FAA-licensed spaceport located on 18,000 acres of State Trust Land in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin 45 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and 20 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences.

VSS Unity in space during #Unity22 test flight. Photo: Virgin Galactic Press Release

VSS Unity Crew

The crew completed a number of cabin and customer experience test objectives, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, views of Earth from space, research conditions, and the success of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America.

The mission specialists in the cabin were Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor; Colin Bennett, Lead Flight Operations Engineer; Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations. The VSS Unity pilots were Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, while Kelly Latimer and CJ Sturckow piloted VMS Eve.

UNITY22 CREW. Photo: Virgin Galactic Press Release

Comments from Virgin Atlantic CEO, Founder

Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said, “Today is a landmark achievement for the Company and a historic moment for the new commercial space industry. With each successful mission, we are paving the way for the next generation of astronauts."

Sir Richard Branson said, “I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space. We are at the vanguard of a new space age. As Virgin’s founder, I was honoured to test the incredible customer experience as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists and now astronauts. I can’t wait to share this experience with aspiring astronauts around the world.”

Branson continued, “Our mission is to make space more accessible to all. In that spirit, and with today’s successful flight of VSS Unity, I’m thrilled to announce a partnership with Omaze and Space for Humanity to inspire the next generation of dreamers. For so long, we have looked back in wonder at the space pioneers of yesterday. Now, I want the astronauts of tomorrow to look forward and make their own dreams come true.”

Unity22 crew at zero gravity. Photo: Virgin Galactic Press Release

A World-witnessed Event

Audiences all over the world watched this watershed moment for Virgin Galactic and Sir Richard Branson. It provided a peek of the journey that Virgin Galactic's Future Astronauts might expect when the company offers commercial service when its test flight program is completed. Virgin Galactic's YouTube channel has a recording of the webcast.

Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. is a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company that has pioneered private human spaceflight and the manufacturing of advanced air and space vehicles. It is developing "a spaceflight system designed to offer customers a unique and transformative experience."

VSS Unity tailcone view from space #Unity22. Photo: Virgin Galactic Press Release

Featured image: VSS Unity rocket engine burn on Unity22. Image and article source: Virgin Galactic Press Release.