Virgin Galactic announces research mission flight window

Virgin Galactic announces its next spaceflight
Virgin Galactic
Headshot of Greg Rose
by Greg Rose
19 October 2023

The flight window for ‘Galactic 05’, Virgin Galactic’s sixth spaceflight this year and tenth to date, will open on 2 November.

On the ‘Galactic 05’ mission, Virgin Galactic’s spaceship is set to once again be converted into a suborbital space lab for space-based research.

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic

“The pursuit of scientific discovery has driven Virgin Galactic from the beginning, and we’re thrilled to offer a wide breadth of high-quality and reliable access to space-based research,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic. “With six flights in six months, our teams have delivered on our turn time objectives for our initial spaceship, VSS Unity. ‘Galactic 05’ will be our second commercial human-tended research mission, and insights from this flight will be used to enhance and refine the research capabilities of our future Delta fleet.”

The ‘Galactic 05’ mission crew will include:

● Astronaut 020 - Dr. Alan Stern, US Planetary Scientist and Associate Vice President in Southwest Research Institute’s (SwRI) Space Sector

● Astronaut 021 - Kellie Gerardi, US Payload Specialist and Bioastronautics Researcher for the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS)

● Astronaut 022 - Private Astronaut – Franco-Italian nationality

Galactic 05’ is set to become Galactic’s sixth space research mission and its second this year. Alan and Kellie are experienced researchers who plan to conduct human-tended research during the suborbital spaceflight. As a former NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Alan is a long-time advocate for commercial suborbital research platforms. Sponsored by SwRI, Alan’s mission is planned to be a training flight for a future suborbital spaceflight as part of the NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. During ‘Galactic 05’, Alan will fly a biomedical harness to collect physiological data related to human spaceflight and conduct practice activities for an astronomical experiment on the NASA flight.

Kellie, sponsored by IIAS, plans to fly three payloads, two of which will evaluate novel healthcare technologies in microgravity conditions through the collection of biometric data with the Astroskin biomonitoring device, and examine how confined fluid behaves to inform future healthcare technologies in space. Her research has been developed through extensive reduced gravity flight campaigns with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and would now be advanced through a suborbital flight.

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic

“After years of sending machines to conduct research on my behalf, I'm thrilled to be making this maiden spaceflight,” said Dr. Alan Stern, on behalf of SwRI. “What sets this flight apart from others, and which likely represents a new kind of space activity, is that more than anything else I will be training - in space - for future space experiments I will be performing with NASA funding. Virgin’s suborbital costs are low enough to open up space training actually in space as a viable opportunity, and that is a game changer."

“This mission represents the beginning of a new era of access to space for the research community, and the culmination of a personal lifelong dream. I’m grateful for the support and confidence that IIAS continues to place in me, and I’m looking forward to paving the way for our many talented researchers who will follow, using space as a laboratory to benefit humanity,” said Kellie Gerardi, on behalf of IIAS.

The Virgin Galactic crew includes VSS Unity Commander Mike Masucci and Pilot Kelly Latimer, VMS Eve Commander Jameel Janjua and Pilot Andy Edgell, and Astronaut Instructor Colin Bennett. Colin’s work on ‘Galactic 05’ will complete the in-flight Astronaut Instructor training assessments, and the fourth cabin seat on VSS Unity will be used for additional revenue generation on future flights.

The ‘Galactic 06’ mission is expected to take place in January 2024 to allow time for routine, planned annual vehicle inspections before re-commencing with standard pre-flight readiness procedures. The ‘Galactic 06’ mission will be planned to carry four private astronauts to space.

Go to Virgin Galactic’s social channels for further updates.