The VMS Eve carrier aircraft is seen in the background shortly after launch of VSS Unity, firing its engine and accelerating during the company’s fourth spaceflight test, Unity 22, carrying co-founder Richard Branson on July 11, 2021.
Virgo galaxy It is targeting as early as May 25 the launch of its next space flight, which marks its first flight in nearly two years since aviation founder Sir Richard Branson and the last planned step before commercial service begins.
Called Expedition 25, it marks the company’s fifth spaceflight to date, as it lifts off from Spaceport America in New Mexico. It’s the Final Evaluation flight, with six Virgin Galactic employees on board for a short trip to the edge of space.
The update comes after a longer-than-expected refurbishment of the company’s spacecraft: Two months after Branson’s flight, and after an FAA investigation into a mishap during his flight, the company halted operations for what was supposed to be “eight to” 10 months”—but it ended up taking nearly from 16 months instead.
Virgin Galactic shares rose as much as 5% in early trading Wednesday after the announcement, before giving up the gains to trade for little change on the day. The company reported first-quarter results earlier this month that revealed mounting losses as it funds the development and expansion of its spacecraft fleet.
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In-house pilots Mike Masucci and CJ Sturko will fly the VSS Unity spacecraft, while Jamil Janjua and Nicola Bissell will fly the VMS Eve. In the cabin will be Senior Astronaut Beth Moses, as well as Astronaut Instructor Luke Mace, Chief Engineering Officer Christopher Hoy, and Director of Internal Communications Jamila Gilbert.
Virgin Galactic’s approach to space tourism is to fly up to about 40,000 feet, launch the spacecraft and fire its engine to go over 80 kilometers (or about 262,000 feet) — an altitude that the US recognizes as the frontier of space.
Known as suborbital, this type of spaceflight takes passengers a few minutes of weightlessness, unlike the longer, more difficult and more expensive orbital flights conducted by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. After flying his own craft in 2021, Branson told CNBC he hopes to fly with SpaceX.
Based on the results and data gathered from Unity 25, the company is aiming to carry out its first commercial mission in “late June.”