Sir Richard Branson (Yes, he is a knight) may soon be able to visit outer space. Virgin Galactic, his company, has announced that it’s opening SpaceShipTwo Unity’s flight window for the next rocket-powered test flight on July 11th. That is a week before Blue Origin’s first tourist flight is scheduled to launch. The Unity 22 mission is going to be the Virgin Galactic’s fourth crewed flight. It will, however, be the first flight to carry a full crew with two pilots and four mission specialists.
The company came to the conclusion that it was ready to launch after it analyzed a bunch of data that came back from its May 22nd test flight. The company completed the first human spaceflight out of Virgin’s New Mexico-based Spaceport America back in May. It was supposed to take off 4 months earlier, but the launch didn’t take place because SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor failed to ignite.
Now, Branson & Company is taking the next step towards offering commercial flights. This next mission is going to focus on testing the spacecraft’s cabin environment, seat comfort, etc. It will also test the weightless experience and the views of Earth that it will be offering to paying passengers.
Along with Branson and a pair of pilots, others on the flight will be Virgin Galactic personnel. Beth Moses, the company’s Chief Astronaut Instructor, will oversee the execution of the test flight objectives. Colin Bennett, who is the Lead Operations Engineer at Virgin, will be evaluating cabin equipment, procedures and experience. Also, Sirisha Bandla, the VP of Government Affairs and Research Operations, is going along for the ride to take charge of conducting the human-tended experiments onboard.
The launch will be broadcast via livestream on Virgin’s website and on its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. The stream is expected to begin at 9AM on the day of the flight. It could, however, still be delayed, because ya know, it’s a rocket launch.