Virgin Galactic Wraps Up Final Test, Prepares for Commercial Space Tourism



by FARUK IMAMOVIC

Virgin Galactic Wraps Up Final Test, Prepares for Commercial Space Tourism

In a significant stride towards space tourism, Virgin Galactic recently wrapped up the final test flight of its space plane VSS Unity, setting the stage for the launch of its commercial services. The news of this successful mission, dubbed Unity 25, marks an exhilarating leap forward for the company, which has long been pursuing its dream of making space travel a reality for paying customers.

Taking the Skyward Leap: Unity 25's Historic Mission

During the Unity 25 mission, a meticulous examination of the spacecraft's technical functionality was conducted, simultaneously gauging the overall experience of the astronauts on board.

The spaceplane's journey beyond the Earth's atmosphere was deemed successful, notching a remarkable achievement for Virgin Galactic. It was during this momentous flight that Jamila Gilbert, a crew member of the mission, created history.

As a native of New Mexico, Gilbert became the state's first female astronaut, sharing her incredible journey with colleagues Chris Huie, Luke Mays, and Beht Moses. Together, they made a powerful statement in the world of space exploration, being employees of Virgin Galactic.

The company captured the euphoria on social media, tweeting, “WE HAVE REACHED SPACE!” Approximately 11 minutes after the announcement, another tweet informed followers of the spacecraft's smooth landing.

Virgin's Persistent Journey Towards Space Tourism

The successful execution of Unity 25 carries immense significance for Virgin Galactic. It had previously been forced to delay the test several times, with the most recent setback arising from difficulties upgrading the VMS Eve aircraft that carries Unity to an altitude of 50,000 feet.

However, the company's perseverance paid off. It completed a propulsion-free test flight in April, followed by its first manned flight in July 2021, when company founder Richard Branson joined astronauts Moses, Sirisha Bandla, and Colin Bennett on Unity 22.

Unity 25 marks Virgin's fifth space flight of any kind, proving that patience and persistence can triumph over obstacles.

The Future of Space Tourism: Virgin vs. Blue Origin and SpaceX

Despite the hurdles, Virgin Galactic remains hopeful, anticipating the first set of fare-paying space tourists in late June, with each ticket costing an astronomical $450,000.

While Virgin Galactic trails behind Blue Origin in terms of civilian space travel, it holds its own against Elon Musk's SpaceX. Musk announced lunar tourism plans years ago but has yet to launch a manned Starship rocket into space.

While SpaceX envisions broader applications such as lunar orbit tourism and landing NASA astronauts on the moon, Virgin Galactic concentrates on suborbital flights.