Virgin Galactic to launch its next space tourism flight in June

It could be the company's last flight before it begins development of its next-generation Delta spaceships

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Virgin Galactic is set to carry out its second space tourism flight of 2024 on June 8, the company has said.

Galactic 07 could also be the last commercial flight before the company begins development of its next-generation Delta spaceships.

It will carry four passengers to the edge of space after a take-off from New Mexico, including private “astronauts” from California, New York and Italy, as well as a researcher astronaut from Houston-based space infrastructure company Axiom Space.

Identities of the passengers were not revealed, with a seat on the flight reportedly costing $450,000.

“Virgin Galactic’s spaceship will again be converted into a suborbital science lab, with VSS Unity carrying an Axiom Space affiliated researcher astronaut who will conduct multiple human-tended experiments,” the company said.

Experience on Virgin Galactic flights

The space tourism flight offers a horizontal launch, in which a "motherplane" carries a passenger vessel - the VSS Unity - from a New Mexico runway to a high enough altitude where it is released.

It then soars to the edge of space, where passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness and observe the curvature of the planet.

Virgin Galactic launches tourists to edge of space

Virgin Galactic launches tourists to edge of space

The plane then descends and lands on a runway in New Mexico, ending the 90-minute experience.

Galactic 07 also includes research by the Purdue University and UC Berkley, which are being sent up as part of Nasa’s Flight Opportunities programme.

Purdue’s experiment involves studying propellant slosh in fuel tanks of manoeuvring spacecraft, while, UC Berkley is testing a new type of 3D printing.

Delta spaceships

With the new Delta spaceships, Virgin Galactic is hoping for increased frequency and higher revenue per flight.

The company reported a net loss of $502.34 million in 2023, including a loss of $102.3 million in the fourth quarter.

The spaceships are to have a capacity to carry six passengers, as compared to four on the VSS Unity.

It could also be possible to carry out up to eight flights per month, while Unity is capable of one flight per month.

The spaceships will be assembled at Virgin Galactic’s new facility in Arizona, with the vehicles expected to commence revenue-generating payload flights in late 2025 and private astronaut flights in 2026.

Journey of VSS Unity

Virgin Galactic flew its first passengers, including Sir Richard Branson, in July 2021, but American authorities grounded the flights after because the plane went off course.

Commercial operations started in June 2023, with three Italian Air Force officers who flew on the flight.

Since then, it has flown the first Pakistani and UAE resident and the first Ukrainian citizen on its flights.

Lina Borozdina, born and raised in Ukraine but currently living in Nevada, US, flew aboard the Galactic 06 flight in January.

The scientist, chemist and breast cancer survivor said she always dreamt of going to space.

"Our fragile blue planet in the infinite vacuum of space. You can’t see wars or suffering from above - just the beauty of our planet," Ms Borozdina said before the flight.

Updated: May 05, 2024, 12:46 PM