The flight was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the crew fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, according to Virgin Galactic CEO, Michael Colglazier, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research and the effectiveness of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America.
“This is a landmark achievement for the Company and a historic moment for the new commercial space industry,” Colglazier said. “With each successful mission we are paving the way for the next generation of astronauts.
“I want to thank our talented team, including our pilots and crew, whose dedication and commitment made today possible. They are helping open the door for greater access to space – so it can be for the many and not just for the few.”
VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve. The vehicle reached space, at an altitude of 53.5 miles, before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Spaceport America.
This seminal moment for Virgin Galactic and Branson was witnessed by audiences around the world.
Branson said it gave a glimpse of the journey Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts can expect when the Company launches commercial service following the completion of its test flight program.
“I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space,” he said. “We are at the vanguard of a new space age. As Virgin’s founder, I was honoured to test the incredible customer experience as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists and now astronauts. I can’t wait to share this experience with aspiring astronauts around the world.
“Our mission is to make space more accessible to all. In that spirit, and with today’s successful flight of VSS Unity, I’m thrilled to announce a partnership with Omaze and Space for Humanity to inspire the next generation of dreamers.
“For so long, we have looked back in wonder at the space pioneers of yesterday. Now, I want the astronauts of tomorrow to look forward and make their own dreams come true,” Branson said.