- Parabolic Arc
- June 7, 2023
Virgin Galactic Successfully Completes First Fully Crewed Spaceflight
- Fourth Spaceflight Tests Private Astronaut and Research Experience
- First In-Flight Livestream Brings Spaceflight Experience to Audiences Around the World
LAS CRUCES, N.M. July 11, 2021 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“the Company” or “Virgin Galactic”) today announced that VSS Unity successfully reached space, completing the Company’s fourth rocket-powered spaceflight.
Today’s flight was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The crew fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, 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.
Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Today is a landmark achievement for the Company and a historic moment for the new commercial space industry. 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 Sir Richard Branson was witnessed by audiences around the world. 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. A recording of the livestream can be accessed on Virgin Galactic’s YouTube channel.
Sir Richard Branson said: “I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space. 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.”
Branson continued, “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.”
The mission specialists in the cabin were Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor; Colin Bennett, Lead Flight Operations Engineer; Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations; and the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The VSS Unity pilots were Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, while Kelly Latimer and CJ Sturckow piloted VMS Eve.
You can download all press materials including images and broll from the Virgin Galactic Press Assets
About Virgin Galactic Holdings
Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. is a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, pioneering human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers, as well as a manufacturer of advanced air and space vehicles. It is developing a spaceflight system designed to offer customers a unique and transformative experience. You can find more information at https://www.virgingalactic.com/
47 responses to “Virgin Galactic Successfully Completes First Fully Crewed Spaceflight”
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Yes, it was successful with hundreds of spectators along the new Spaceport road.
Were you one of them? (i.e., did you see it in person?)
Yes I did. Had a great view of takeoff, flight and landing. You actually get a better view than at Mojave because the road is higher that the Spaceport, running along side the BNSF “Horny Toad” railroad line.
Lots of Cheering at the takeoff as White Knight Two flew over, then again when SpaceshipTwo fired its engines, and then when SpaceshipTwo glided over the crowd and landed.
They were also lucky to get the flight off when they did. A huge storm hit that night, lots of hail damage. The power at my motel was out for 7 hours. You could see the branches and pieces of roofing blown off around the town.
Thanks for the trip report. It has not caused me to alter my personal preference for viewing such events via webcast.
Sounds like you were hit by a desert microburst.
Well done Sir Richard, P. T. Barnum would be proud 🙂
Meanwhile, on a shoreline in south west Texas, genuine space access is making real progress…
Elon Musk stated at one of his interviews last year that the goal for Starship was around $2 million per flight. If you put 100 passengers in that is a cost of $20,000 each for an orbital flight or a ticket price of $24,000 allowing a reasonable mark up. If Elon Musk’s cost estimate is low and it’s actually $20 million a flight than figure a ticket price of $240,000, still less than VG.
If you decide to use airline seating, remember Starship has as much volume for passengers as an A380, then you stick in seats for 300, with respective prices of $8,000 and $80,000.
If you want to go to the Moon, and allowing for 9 tanker flights, the ticket prices would be around $80,000 and $800,000 respectively, not counting the bill for your stay at the Lunar Hotel, Casino, and low-G Resort.?
Of course if you are flying NASA style on the SLS/Orion you are looking at around $500 million a ticket and camping out in the lander…
those are very optimistic numbers with nothing to back them up
Which numbers: those for Starship, SLS/Orion or VG?
I understand you have VG shares and stand to make a handsome profit if they rise significantly, as seems likely, in response to this stunt. However, do you really believe VG’s numbers can hold water without some major accounting tricks (e.g. development costs being completely written-off)?
I also understand that ‘brand image’ alone can have a value – that’s how the Virgin Group makes most of its money – but I have to say that the business projections for VG (e.g. 100 flights/year) seem far more dodgy than those presented by Thomas for Starship.
A positive though just crossed my mind after seeing this tweet…
…could Branson cut a deal with SpaceX to *operate* Starship/Super-Heavy vehicles under the VG brand, like Virgin Atlantic operates Boeing vehicles?
Remember that VG originally pitched itself as an operator but got forced to turn into a developer after it tied itself to Scaled. And the basic idea of separating developers and operators makes real sense if the aim is to massively increase access to space – in fact it would probably be mandated by law, if aircraft history is anything to go by.
Matula and I had the same thought a couple of days ago. There was, somewhat disappointingly, no such announcement forthcoming after Branson’s flight, but never say never. As you note, the idea still makes considerable sense and may still come to pass. VG and SpaceX have nicely complementary strengths where space tourism is concerned.
At least as important as the good fit of core competencies of the two organizations, Musk and Branson seem to genuinely like each other. Considering the similar natures of their life histories – including dogged tenacity and the overcoming of hard times – I could see these two making a formidable team in the space tourism business.
I wasn’t limiting the market to tourism, which may be a significant but small sector of potential future markets – as outlined in Section 3 of this report…
I note that the UK government is currently studying the practicality of solar power satellites…
…and would sincerely hope they look at the advantages any ‘special access’ to Starship may give them along with the means to defending such capital equipment, once deployed.
It would be easy enough to build a launch site for Starship on the eastern coast of the UK. It would even be a good place to test Starship point to point service. Given the relationship between the UK and USA ITAR would be simple.
Given the number or oil platforms off the UK’s east coast, an off-shore base may be the best near-term option, especially when considering the issue of noise… which is important to me as I’m about to retire to East Anglia 🙂
If one wants to know what business opportunities a new technology will enable, the last people you want to consult are government bureaucrats and companies that constitute the cartel-of-the-conventional – both of which shared authorship of that nearly three decade-old report you linked to.
Powersats will, I think, play important roles in lunar and even martian energy infrastructure, but Earth is a much more problematical case. On the Moon and Mars, habitation will be all-but-exclusively underground and neither place has a native ecology that can be affected. Neither is true of Earth.
Even a fairly well-inhabited Moon and Mars would also be much less vulnerable to purposeful crashing of a powersat by hostile military or terrorist forces. I don’t see terrestrially-oriented powersats being worth that risk until our planet has been cleared of the last vestiges of autocratic and aggressively expansionist government. Perhaps that will be achieved sometime in the back half of the current century.
There is also the non-trivial matter of insuring any powersats are reasonably proof against future Carrington-level coronal mass ejections from Sol.
the VG investment was what my wife calls “Robert’s fun money” its money I really dont expect to get back but it would be nice if it did and well super if it works out. I got this from my Great grand father who ran his fun money into about twenty stocks most of which petered out but Boeing, Ford, Collins and I think it was Standard Oil then… I stared with SWA 🙂
(but Dad was their legal counsel at the time so he was getting paid in that 🙂
“However, do you really believe VG’s numbers can hold water without some major accounting tricks (e.g. development costs being completely written-off)”
No. and I am more or less counting on the last one. But I suspect Musk and Bezos (if he ever makes a profit in anything) will all do the same…
I like VG for two reasons but they are all based on the same thought. I “think” that they are going to be the first product in “space’ that involves large numbers of human customers that has “a good run” of it…(and the two reasons are money and I think human spaceflight needs this)
I think this for three reasons
1. Musk will eventually get the cost to fly into space SIGNIFICANTLY down with Starship but this will like Falcon take a decade
2. I dont think that even with it “really down” that the price will fall to the levels Matula is talking anytime soon and
3. I think that the markeet for space hotels is limited. at least in the decade time span. and I think that this is as long as its safe just the market. a fun two weeks with about an hour of flight time (and less of Microgravity of course) but the “experience” thrown in of being a well pampered astronaut with some excitement
it reminds me (at a bit less cost) of the last action vacation my oldest daughter and I had…we dove Brittanic. it was a natural extension of our scuba love…six months of reasonable training (we are both in pretty good shape…she is in better of course she is a functioning fighter aviator) a week of pretty heavy but fun training and some training dives…and then we went…andall in pretty good luxury.
yes there are some bias. unless I had a job doing it…endless microgravity is just not what I think would make life great 🙂
but to me these are valid reasons
With six revenue seats per flight, no pilots to pay and no need to replace much of the propulsion plant after each flight, I think Blue’s New Shepard has much better economics than SpaceShipTwo in the early going. Add in far faster turnaround and Blue’s early advantage increases.
I also don’t think SpaceX will take a decade to offer tourism services of several kinds using Starship. Tourism would be easy and cheap to get into once Starship is sufficiently mature to do all the other early jobs it will have and would be a good source of additional early revenue with which to begin recouping development costs.
The $2 million number is Musk’s aspirational estimate for the fully-burdened internal SpaceX cost of doing an orbital Starship mission. To maintain SpaceX’s Falcon-era gross profit margins, the retail price of such a mission would have to be at least $8 million. So multiply each of Matula’s numbers by four for orbital tourism tickets.
For sub-orbital tourist jaunts, which Starship could also readily support, both the costs and prices could be lower – probably by half or more.
I don’t think SpaceX will set such low prices in the early going. It will prefer to charge much more while it can to help defray the costs of Starlink and to recoup Starship development costs. With everything else SpaceX will have on its plate fairly soon, high prices will also better meter total demand until SpaceX has time to build out a sizable fleet of tourism-centric Starships. At that point, total profit maximization would dictate lowering prices to expand the market in line with capacity.
Yes, he will slide down the demand curve as is traditional in the tech industry, unless he sees an opportunity to leverage economies of scale to his advantage by going for volume.
BTW, did you see the tweet where he is proposing to build Starship Telescopes? Basically the idea is to turn a version of the cargo Starship into a giant telescope an order of magnitude more powerful than Hubble. And being Elon Musk of course, doing it on a production line basis.
Maybe replacing the Hubble with a hundred or so Starship telescopes in optical, infrared and UV configurations will get the astronomers to stop gripping about Starlink.?
I did see that. Excellent idea. In addition to all the Starship types SpaceX itself will build for its own purposes, I think Starship will soon be available in a sort of “basic chassis” form that customers can customize for all manner of particular uses. This is how certain luxury car brands, notably Duesenberg, used to operate – sell a chassis and drive train to a customer who would then also contract with one of many “coach builders” to fabricate a semi-custom or custom body and interior appointments.
Those are based on the various talks\tweets Elon Musk has done. As to what are the actual numbers, only time will tell, at least for SpaceX shareholders. The rest will just be given the price (not cost) if he posts it.
Still not a spaceflight though
Details, details. I am still waiting for someone to point out that Yuri Gagarin flight doesn’t really count as the first orbital flight because he only reached 91 miles and begin re-entry over Africa before completing a full orbit. Also Gagarin did not stay with the spacecraft until it reached the ground but bailed out at 7,000 meters, standard procedure on the Vostok capsules which always landed with enough force to injured the pilot.
Nonetheless, Gagarin did reach space and his spacecraft went into orbit. 40 miles higher up does make a difference.
True, but although he did reach orbital speed he didn’t complete a full orbit. That detail was left to Vostok 2 to achieve.
IMO, they were very lucky. SS2 has real problems. The frame can just barely take the push from the motor with the load of six occupants. The damage occurred on the way up hill as you can see from the shot when it was at apogee. 🙁
With Sir Richard’s flight out of the way that should ease the pressure. Also don’t they need to do some work on White Knight Two as well?
Hard to say, Thomas. But, skin buckling/sustaining damage like that is definitely not a good thing. Maybe it is/has been addressed in SS3. I would be very surprised if SS2 ends up flying all that often, at least with a full load and pushing as hard as the motor did for the duration that it did or sustaining damage like it has. Stay safe, Paul.
It’s not damage, Thomas, schmoe has sent a link to show it’s the mothership hardpoint attachment structure. My bad. Stay safe, Paul.
That is good. But there is still the question about the age related repairs they talked about doing to White Knight Two.
Actually it is likely to be “mission accomplished”. The savvy shareholder take their profits off of the expected stock jump. After that, the lack of future performance is less relevant to the former shareholders. The future shareholders on the other hand….
Where did what buckle?
Hi Stu, go onto Twitter and have a look at the Unity post-return shots on Jeff Foust’s posts, you’ll see what I mean. Although, to be fair, some sources claim that it’s only a cosmetic issue to do with it’s release from the carrier plane. Stay safe, Paul.
I’m your huckleberry.
it looks non structural but the FAA will know
It’s not damage, Bob, schmoe has sent a link to show it’s the mothership hardpoint attachment structure. My bad. Stay safe, Paul.
It’s not damage, Emmet, schmoe has sent a link to show it’s the mothership hardpoint attachment structure. My bad. Stay safe, Paul.
Ahh, yep, I had looked at some pictures and I did wonder if you had misconstrued that structure as damage. It did look dodgy until I identified it on several other images.
It’s not damage, Stu, schmoe has sent a link to show it’s the mothership hardpoint attachment structure. My bad. Stay safe, Paul.
That’s actually not damage. It’s the hardpoint attachment structure to the mothership. Corroborated by photos of the vehicle from past years, like this one from 2016:
Thanks for the link, schmoe, that’s good to know. Stay safe, Paul.
this is great just wonderful
Looks like the upper portion of the nozzle took a real beating. Congrats guys!
The inside of the nozzle is notably eroded after a flight, but it’s an ablative nozzle so that’s normal. The whole case+fuel-grain+nozzle assembly gets junked after each mission anyway. But the nozzle starts out considerably longer on its bottom than on its top and finishes the same way. The asymmetry there is not damage.
Talk about stick-to-it-iveness; these guys have it in spades.
Congratulations, Branson and team – it was a long road, but you finally did it 🙂
On the stream from Virgin the video was good, but the audio was bad. The commentators voices were repeating 4 or 5 times. I watched mostly with the sound off. I did watch a video at space.com where most audio was good, except for a small amount. Glad the flight went perfect as far as I could see and they went higher than their planned apogee of 279,000′. The altimeter was showing ASL.