Virgin Preps for First Commercial Spaceflight

Virgin Galactic | Image by Jared Ortega, Shutterstock

Virgin Galactic is preparing to offer its first commercial spaceflight in June.

The space tourism company is coming off a two-year pause and will launch a test flight in May in preparation for its first commercial flight.

The May launch, Unity 25, will be the 25th flight and fifth spaceflight in the company’s history, according to the Washington Examiner.

Space is defined as 50 miles above sea level, and the total journey will be 90 minutes, with passengers experiencing a few minutes of weightlessness.

The flights take off from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“Unity 25 is the final assessment of the full spaceflight system and astronaut experience before commercial service opens in late June,” Virgin Galactic said in a press release on Monday.

“Returning to space is what we have all worked towards. Our mission specialists were selected for their diverse expertise, and they couldn’t be better suited to validate the astronaut training program and overall experience. After this flight, we will begin flying our customers to space,” Mike Moses, president of Spaceline Missions and Safety at Virgin Galactic, said in the press release.

Virgin Galactic Spokesman Jeff Michaels said there is a massive backlog for upcoming flights and that the company has sold roughly 800 tickets, according to the Washington Examiner.

Tickets are priced at $450,000 and have been on sale since 2005, according to AFP.

If everything remains on track, Michaels said the first of these tickets will be used in June.

“I can’t foresee any complications, nor can our president, Michael Colglazier,” Micheals said, per the Washington Examiner. “But [the] weather could, I suppose, cause a delay. But we’re currently all set for late June.”

Commercial flights carry four passengers. A plane with a shuttle attached to it takes off from a runway. When the plane reaches 50,000 feet, the shuttle detaches and ignites its rocket engine, sending it into space at 3 1/2 times the speed of sound, according to the Washington Examiner.

Virgin Galactic is a publicly traded company that saw its shares skyrocket during the pandemic. Shares have since fallen back to earth and the company is currently valued at $1.15 billion.

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