In a groundbreaking event for space tourism, Virgin Galactic successfully completed its 11th spaceflight, marking the first spaceflight of 2024 and a significant milestone in commercial space travel. The mission, named Galactic 06, was notable for fully occupying all four seats aboard the VSS Unity with private astronauts, a first in the company's history.
The flight, which took off at 10:00 am MT, reached an impressive altitude of 44,493 ft before achieving an apogee of 55.2 miles. Traveling at a top speed of 2.98 Mach, the VSS Unity successfully landed back on Earth at 10:56 am MT. This mission underlines Virgin Galactic's commitment to making space accessible to private individuals.
Leading the crew of Galactic 06 were four private astronauts, each marking their own unique achievement in the history of space travel. Astronaut 023, Lina Borozdina, a Ukrainian resident in Nevada, USA, became the first Ukrainian woman to travel to space. Joining her were Astronaut 024, Robie Vaughn from Texas, USA; Astronaut 025, Franz Haider from Austria, becoming the second Austrian in space; and Astronaut 026, Neil Kornswiet from California, USA.
The launch was observed by more than 150 guests at Spaceport America, highlighting the growing interest and excitement in commercial space travel. The flight crew included Commander C J Sturckow and Pilot Nicola Pecile in the VSS Unity, with Michael Masucci commanding the mothership VMS Eve, alongside pilot Dan Alix.
This successful mission not only represents a significant achievement for Virgin Galactic but also signals the company's confidence in the repeatability and reliability of its commercial spaceflights. With the development of their next-generation Delta-class ships, Virgin Galactic anticipates beginning testing next year, aiming for commercial service in 2026.
Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, expressed his pride in the team's accomplishment and his optimism for the future. He stated, "Today the incredible team at Virgin Galactic supported another successful mission and delivered an unforgettable experience for four new astronauts."
Virgin Galactic's upcoming mission, expected in the second quarter of 2024, promises to continue this trend of innovation and exploration, including both a researcher and private astronauts in its crew. This continued progress marks a new era in space travel, making what was once a dream for many a tangible reality.