Virgin Galactic’s fifth commercial flight will be a research one

Virgin Galactic has announced that the Galactic 05 suborbital mission, which is due to launch in early November, will be a research mission. It will also be the last this year for the Unity spaceplane. It will resume flights in January.

Virgin Galactic spaceplane. Source: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic’s fifth commercial flight

Virgin Galactic announced on October 18 that the next suborbital flight of its Unity spaceplane would take place during the launch window, which would open on November 2. The Galactic 05 mission will be the fifth commercial and sixth overall this year.

Similar to Galactic 01, which took place in June this year, this mission is positioned as a research one. Passengers on this mission will be two researchers — Alan Stern and Kellie Gerardi. The third will be a French-Italian tourist, whose name has not been announced.

Also in the passenger cabin there will be a representative of the company — astronaut instructor Colin Bennett. Pilots Mike Masucci and Kelly Latimer will be in the cockpit of the spaceplane. By the way, the company promises that this will be the last mission on which their employee will be in the passenger cabin. Starting with the next one, all four seats should be occupied by passengers.

What will they explore in flight?

Virgin Galactic offers suborbital exploration as an alternative usage of its vehicles in addition to space tourism, which is potentially more profitable in terms of one location.

Alan Stern will be the central figure in this flight. He is one of the largest promoters of the use of commercial suborbital flights for scientific research. He has been organizing conferences on this issue since 2010. And he also became one of the first people for whom NASA paid for a flight on a Virgin Galactic spaceplane to conduct scientific research. 

In this flight, Stern will evaluate a harness used to collect biomedical data, as well as test a mockup of an astronomical camera planned for a future suborbital flight. Gerardi, representing the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS), a research and educational organization, will test the biomonitoring device and collect other biomedical data, while simultaneously conducting a fluid dynamics experiment.

Among other things, Virgin Galactic announced that this flight would be the last this year. The company needs to carry out planned technical work with the spaceplane. However, the sixth mission is due to take place in January, and it will be a tourist one.

According to

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time