Virgin Galactic starts preparing Future Astronauts for space

Image of a person pulling on a Virgin Galactic Under Armour boot. Part of the astronaut readiness programme.
Image from Virgin Galactic
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
21 November 2019

Virgin Galactic takes another step in its journey to take its first passengers to space as it launches the Astronaut Readiness Program.

The Astronaut Readiness Program, took place at the extensive, high-tech Under Armour Global HQ in Baltimore, and is preparing Future Astronauts who will be among the first to fly with Virgin Galactic. 

Team members from Virgin Galactic guided and instructed Future Astronauts as they undertook a number of flight preparation activities, including fitting their spacesuits and taking health and fitness consultations. By completing this unique programme, they are helping Virgin Galactic to develop the programme for the rest of their customers.

Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot Dave Mackay with Future Astronauts
Image from Virgin Galactic

As the first and only private company to have put humans into space in a vehicle built for commercial service, Virgin Galactic is now finalising the elements of its customer experience. Already prepared are the recently unveiled spacesuits which were designed in collaboration with Under Armour, and Virgin Galactic’s Gateway to Space headquarters at Spaceport America. The Astronaut Readiness Program is the next phase of preparing to take customers into space.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said: “Introducing our Astronaut Readiness Program to our first customer’s marks an exciting point in our journey as we move closer to the start of commercial service. It is an important step in the process to ensure that our customers are prepared and equipped with the knowledge and training that will help ensure that they savour every second of their spaceflight which we hope will go beyond expectations. My introduction to Virgin Galactic was as a customer, so I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of involving Future Astronauts as we prepare each individual for the trip of a lifetime.’’

The programme took place at Under Armour’s campus, which is an ideal location for the variety of different activities. Perhaps the most exciting exercise for many Future Astronauts was going through the fitting process for their spaceflight garments. These are all tailored to each individual and will remain theirs to keep after their flight to space. Fittings are being carried out now so that perfectly tailored training suits and spacesuits will be ready and waiting for Future Astronauts when they arrive at Spaceport America for the final flight preparation and spaceflight.

People training in the Astronaut Readiness Programme
Image from Virgin Galactic

Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor, and Dave Mackay, chief pilot, let Future Astronauts know what to expect when they arrive at Spaceport America and gave insight into how they’ll feel as they fly to space at more than three times the speed of sound. Both Beth and Dave flew to space in February so are best-placed to provide exciting insights based on actual experience.

Clare Pelly, head of astronaut office at Virgin Galactic, added: “As we kick off the programme which will prepare Future Astronauts for a transformational spaceflight experience, we once again draw on the support from our unique, pioneering community. In doing so, we can ensure that each journey with Virgin Galactic is as good and as relevant as it possibly can be; not only before, but during and after the incredible, personal experience of spaceflight.”

Health and fitness is, of course, an important part of the spaceflight and Virgin Galactic’s commitment to safety for the customers. While Future Astronauts won’t be faced with the rigorous levels of fitness required by government space agency astronauts, the in-house medical team conducted specially designed consultations with Future Astronauts.

Virgin Galactic also attended the Dubai Airshow 2019 from November 17th to 21st. They exhibited the spacesuits and offered a unique immersive and sensory virtual reality experience. This gave guests the chance to take a virtual tour of Spaceport America and experience the Gateway to Space building.

Read more about how the spacesuits were designed.

Visit Virgin Galactic to find out more.