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Virgin Galactic to Launch First Fully Commercial Spaceflight

June 27, 2023

Virgin Galactic, the leading space tourism company, is preparing to embark on its inaugural fully commercial flight of the SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane on June 29[1]. This milestone event will carry three Italian payload specialists conducting groundbreaking experiments during the mission, known as "Galactic 01." Set to take off from Spaceport America in New Mexico; the flight represents a significant achievement for Virgin Galactic and its efforts to revolutionize space research and tourism.

Mission Overview: Galactic 01, also called Virtute 1 by the Italian government, is the result of a collaborative partnership between Virgin Galactic, the Italian Air Force, and the National Research Council. This groundbreaking research mission aims to usher in a new era of repeatable and reliable access to space for government and research institutions.

The Crew and Experiments: Commanded by Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei, a former NASA and Axiom Space trainee, the crew will also comprise Lieutenant Colonel Angelo Landolfi from the Italian Air Force and researcher Pantaleone Carlucci from Italy's National Research Council. Together, they will conduct an array of thirteen experiments throughout the flight. These experiments will encompass measuring cosmic radiation, examining the effects of microgravity on fluids and combustion, and collecting invaluable medical data. To test the limits of human endurance, Villadei will wear a specialized "smart flight suit" designed to gather biomedical data while withstanding forces of up to 6 Gs[2].

Colin Bennett, a seasoned Virgin Galactic astronaut instructor, will join the Italian specialists in the crew cabin and evaluate the research flight experience. Having previously flown with company founder Richard Branson on a SpaceShipTwo mission in July 2021, Bennett brings valuable expertise to the team. The task will be commanded by Virgin Galactic's experienced pilot, Mike Masucci, while Nicola Pecile, a former Italian Air Force pilot now employed by Virgin, will serve as the pilot[3].

Importance of Research in Space: While Virgin Galactic is renowned for its space tourism endeavors, this mission highlights its commitment to conducting cutting-edge space research. By providing a unique platform for researchers to conduct experiments, Virgin Galactic aims to showcase the potential of space as an alternative market for scientific investigations. The Galactic 01 flight underscores the company's ability to offer regular access to space for the science and technology community, facilitating significant advancements in various fields.

Future Plans and Funding: Virgin Galactic's primary source of revenue continues to be private astronauts, who pay substantial sums for the opportunity to experience space travel. The company currently boasts approximately 800 customers for these flights, with plans to commence its first private astronaut flight, Galactic 02, tentatively scheduled for early August, followed by monthly flights.

Virgin Galactic recently completed a $300 million stock sale to support its ambitious development plans, with an additional $400 million of stock to be sold in collaboration with Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs[4]. These funds will be instrumental in scaling Virgin Galactic's commercial operations, developing its spaceship fleet and infrastructure, and meeting general corporate objectives.

As Virgin Galactic prepares for its first fully commercial spaceflight, the company demonstrates its commitment to advancing scientific research and tourism in space. The Galactic 01 mission, with its team of Italian researchers, underscores the potential for repeatable and reliable access to space for governments and research institutions. By pioneering this research-focused flight, Virgin Galactic aims to solidify its position as a leading player in the space industry while continuing to expand its private astronaut business. The mission is a testament to the company's dedication to pushing the boundaries of human exploration and fostering technological advancements beyond our planet's limits.


[1] Foust, J. (2023a, January 23). Virgin galactic to fly Italian Air Force Research Mission. SpaceNews.

[2] Foust, J. (2023a, January 23). Virgin galactic to fly Italian Air Force Research Mission. SpaceNews.

[3] Foust, J. (2023b, June 15). Virgin galactic sets late June date for first commercial SpaceShipTwo Flight. SpaceNews.

[4] Inline XBRL Viewer. (n.d.).

Image: Virgin Galactic Commercial Test Credit: Virgin Galactic

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