Today, Virgin Galactic conducted
its fourth powered test flight and first space flight of its commercial
SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity.
has been made and a long-anticipated dream realised in Mojave, CA,
today as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, landed from her
maiden spaceflight to cheers from Richard Branson and the teams from
Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.
only is this the first human spaceflight to be launched from American
soil since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011, but the very first
time that a crewed vehicle built for commercial, passenger service, has
historic achievement has been recognised by the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) who announced today that early next year they will
present pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “CJ” Sturckow with FAA
Commercial Astronaut Wings at a ceremony in Washington DC. CJ, as a
four-time Space Shuttle pilot, will become the only person to have been
awarded NASA and FAA wings.
accomplishment has also been recognised by the NASA Flight
Opportunities Program, which flew four space science and technology
experiments on VSS Unity, making this Virgin Galactic’s first revenue
The spectacular spaceflight, which was witnessed by a large crowd of
staff and their families, as well as special guests and media, saw a 60
second planned rocket motor burn which propelled VSS Unity to almost
three times the speed of sound and to an apogee of 51.4 miles.
VSS Unity coasted upwards through the black sky and into space, Virgin
Galactic Mission Control confirmed the news and congratulated the two
astronaut pilots: “ Unity, Welcome to Space”.
a Mach 2.5 supersonic re-entry into the atmosphere, which utilised
Unity’s unique “feathering” configuration, Forger and CJ guided the
spaceship down to a smooth runway landing and an emotional homecoming
from the flight line Richard Branson said: “Many of you will know how
important the dream of space travel is to me personally. Ever since I
watched the moon landings as a child I have looked up to the skies with
wonder. We started Virgin nearly 50 years ago dreaming big and loving a
challenge. Today, as I stood among a truly remarkable group of people
with our eyes on the stars, we saw our biggest dream and our toughest
challenge to date fulfilled. It was an indescribable feeling: joy,
relief, exhilaration and anticipation for what is yet to come.
for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry
private passengers, reached space. Today we completed our first revenue
generating flight and our pilots earned their Commercial Astronaut
Wings. Today, we have shown that Virgin Galactic really can open space
to change the world for good. We will now push on with the remaining
portion of our flight test program, which will see the rocket motor burn
for longer and VSS Unity fly still faster and higher towards giving
thousands of private astronauts an experience which provides a new,
planetary perspective to our relationship with the Earth and the cosmos.
This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who
together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.”
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, said: “What we witnessed today is more compelling evidence that commercial space is set to become one of the twenty-first century’s defining industries. Reusable vehicles built and operated by private companies are about to transform our business and personal lives in ways which are as yet hard to imagine. New enterprises are being created which will become hugely valuable, while enabling humanity to better manage some of its greatest future challenges. Today was a remarkable achievement brought about by the skill, dedication and support of our shareholders, staff, customers, partners and many other stakeholders. We extend our congratulations and thanks to each and every one of them.”
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December 21, 2018
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