Virgin Galactic successfully completes first fully crewed spaceflight

Richard Branson onboard Unity 22 mission with Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic
Head shot of Tania Steere.  She is smiling, with long, wavy blonde hair
by Tania Steere
11 July 2021

Virgin Galactic has announced its spaceship VSS Unity successfully reached space.

This was the spaceline’s fourth spaceflight and first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson.

Virgin Galactic has announced its spaceship VSS Unity successfully reached space.

This was the spaceline’s fourth spaceflight and first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson.

VSS Unity in space during Virgin Galactic #Unity22 test flight
Virgin Galactic

VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve, and reached space at an altitude of 53.5 miles.

The VSS Unity rocket lights as the spaceship releases from VMS Eve and heads to space
Virgin Galactic

One and a half hours after take-off, the spaceship touched down safely at Spaceport America – the world’s only purpose-built commercial spaceport. The crew reported feeling well and having witnessed spectacular views of the Earth from space, while moving weightlessly about the cabin.

Richard Branson experiencing weightlessness during the Virgin Galactic Unity 22 spaceflight
Virgin Galactic

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said: “Today we took one giant leap closer to making the wonder of space travel a reality for anyone who shares that dream. We’re thrilled to introduce this transformative experience to the world and to have more Future Astronauts follow in the footsteps of today’s crew of mission specialists. We look forward to updating you on next steps once we’ve analysed the results from today’s successful flight. Looking ahead, we are on track with our test program, with two further flights planned this year, as we get closer to commercial operations.”

Richard Branson onboard VSS Unity during the Unity 22 mission
Virgin Galactic

Today’s flight was the fourth rocket-powered spaceflight by Virgin Galactic and the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity. 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.

The first global livestream of the spaceflight experience 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.

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 awe-inspiring 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 Virgin Galactic’s new 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.”

Omaze is the leading online fundraising platform that offers the chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences and prizes and support charities around the world. As part of Virgin Galactic’s Omaze sweepstakes, a winning participant and their guest will receive seats aboard one of the company’s first commercial spaceflights. Every donation supports Space For Humanity, a nonprofit seeking to democratize space and send citizen astronauts of diverse racial, economic, and disciplinary backgrounds to space. For more information, to enter for your chance to win by August 31, and to read the full rules please visit Omaze.com/space.

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.