SpaceShipTwo space tourists will conduct 13 experiments during weightlessness

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital aircraft will take four passengers on board during its first commercial flight, which will take place on June 29. But how many people can a suborbital space plane actually accommodate?

VSS Unity during a test flight. Source: Virgin Galactic

SpaceShipTwo is designed for space tourism. The 18.3 m long aircraft can carry up to six passengers together with two pilots. In addition, two more pilots operate a SpaceShipTwo carrier aircraft, called WhiteKnightTwo, which drops the spacecraft at an altitude of about 15 km. SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo spacecraft, which will take to the skies on Thursday, are named VSS Unity and VMS Eve, respectively.

VSS Unity and the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. Source: Virgin Galactic

Four passengers, including Virgin Galactic’s Colin Bennett and a trio from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council, will fly on Thursday in a mission that Virgin Galactic calls Galactic 01. The company said hundreds of people had already reserved seats for future suborbital flights. Future space tourists bought tickets even though Virgin Galactic canceled all flights for a certain period.

A few minutes of weightlessness and 13 experiments

The Galactic 01 mission is scheduled to launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico at 07:00 p.m. Kyiv time, or 9 a.m. local time in New Mexico on Thursday. The flight can be watched online.

After VMS Eve separates from VSS Unity, the space plane will launch its rocket engine to enter suborbital space. The Galactic 01 crew members will feel a few minutes of weightlessness and will have the opportunity to conduct 13 research experiments before returning to Earth. For this purpose, the cabin of the aircraft will be briefly turned into a suborbital scientific laboratory, where the crew will collect data for scientific research aimed at studying fluid dynamics and materials for medical use.

The crew of four includes Pantaleone Carlucci, an engineer of the Italian National Research Council; Col. Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force, who is preparing for a future mission to the International Space Station; Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi, a doctor of the Italian Air Force; and Colin Bennett, an astronaut instructor at Virgin Galactic. Mike Masucci and Nicola Pecile will pilot VSS Unity, and Kelly Latimer will be the commander of VMS Eve along with pilot Jameel Janjua.

SpaceShipTwo Capacity

Unity can comfortably accommodate up to six passengers on board, as the seats can recline to minimize overload during takeoff and return to the atmosphere during each flight. After reaching the suborbital space, passengers will have the opportunity to freely explore the cabin and enjoy spectacular panoramic views through 12 large windows located throughout the cabin. Galactic 01 is expected to land at Spaceport America about 90 minutes after launch.

Earlier we reported on how the disaster of the Titan bathyscaphe showed the danger of space tourism.

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