Virgin Galactic eyes June 8 for final commercial spaceflight on VSS Unity spaceplane


The excitement is building for the liftoff of Virgin Galactic’s seventh commercial spaceflight.

The launch window for the mission, known as Galactic 07, opens at 8:30am MT (10:30 a.m. EDT or 1430 GMT) on Saturday (June 8) and will depart from Spaceport America in southwestern New Mexico.

The Galactic 07 crew will include Axiom Space Mission 3 (Ax-3) backup astronaut Tuva Atasever of the Turkish Space Agency and three private astronauts. Virgin Galactic typically does not disclose the identities of the private astronauts leading up to its launches, but shared in a statement that one is from California, one is from New York, and one is from Italy.

Related: Virgin Galactic launches 1st Ukrainian woman to space — and 3 others — on Galactic 06 suborbital flight (video)

This will be Virgin Galactic’s second mission of 2024. Its first flight of the year, Galactic 06, saw the first Ukrainian woman reach (suborbital) space.

Tickets for these flights are quite the investment, typically selling for $450,000. Passengers on Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane experience a few minutes of weightlessness and get to see a view of Earth that very few get to see in a lifetime.

Commander Nicola Pecile and pilot Jameel Janjua will fly VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space plane, and Commander Andy Edgell and pilot C.J. Sturckow will pilot VMS Eve, the mothership aircraft that carries Unity to a high altitude before the spaceplane releases and ignites its rocket engine.

The suborbital spaceflight will also carry research payloads from Purdue University and University of California, Berkeley. According to the company’s statement, Purdue’s experiment will focus on the “propellant slosh in fuel tanks of maneuvering spacecraft” while U.C. Berkeley will test out a new type of 3D printing in microgravity.

Since 2018, Virgin Galactic has flown payloads as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities program and most recently was selected to be a contracted flight provider for NASA for the next five years.

Axiom Space, a Houston-based private spaceflight company, has completed three crewed trips to date to the International Space Station, and has its fourth mission, (Ax-4), targeted for October at the earliest. The company has partnered with Virgin Galactic on several previous flights.

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“Axiom Space’s commitment to enabling access to space and providing opportunities for scientific discovery beyond Earth aligns closely with Virgin Galactic’s mission,” Tejpaul Bhatia, chief revenue officer of Axiom Space, said in Virgin Galactic’s statement. “We are very excited about this upcoming Galactic 07 flight.”

The Galactic 07 mission follows the previous in January where an alignment pin detached unexpectedly from VMS Eve after VSS Unity separated. Although no one was in any danger on the flight, the company notified the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so that both entities could conduct an investigation of the issue to prevent a repeat for future missions.

Corrective steps have been taken by Virgin Galactic to ensure there will not be a repeat on Galactic 07.



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