The Azerbaijan State News Agency


Virgin Galactic launches VSS Unity space plane on final suborbital spaceflight with crew of 6

Virgin Galactic launches VSS Unity space plane on final suborbital spaceflight with crew of 6

Baku, June 10, AZERTAC

Virgin Galactic launched six people to suborbital space on Saturday (June 8), launching a Turkish astronaut and three space tourists on what was the final voyage of the VSS Unity space plane, according to the

Unity, attached to the belly of its carrier plane Eve, took off from runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico at 10:31 a.m. EDT (1431 GMT) and carried to an altitude of 44,562 feet (13,582 meters) over the next hour, where it was dropped and ignited its rocket engine to carry two pilots and four passengers to space and back. The mission, called Galactic 07, reached an altitude of 54.4 miles (87.5 km) and marked the seventh commercial spaceflight by Virgin Galactic on Unity, which is being retired to make way for the company's new "Delta" class of spacecraft rolling out in 2026.

"I will need much more time to try and process what just happened," Tuva Atasever, the Turkish Space Agency astronaut on the flight, said in a post-flight press conference, adding that the view of Earth was indescribable. "It's not something you can describe with adjectives. It's an experiential thing … you just feel it in your gut."

Atasever's trip on Galactic 07 was brokered by Axiom Space, a company that also flew a Turkish astronaut to the International Space Station with SpaceX on the private Ax-3 mission earlier this year. Atasever was a backup astronaut on the Ax-3 flight and oversaw three different experiments on Galactic 07.

Joining Atasever on the Virgin Galactic flight were VSS Unity commander Nicola Pecile and pilot Jameel Janjua. Virgin Galactic pilots Andy Edgell and C.J. Sturckow, a former NASA astronaut, flew the VMS Eve carrier plane.

The VSS Unity space plane landed back at Spaceport America at 11:41 a.m. EDT (1541 GMT), marking only its seventh commercial spaceflight for Virgin Galactic and 12th crewed spaceflight overall. In all, Virgin Galactic flew the space plane just 32 times, including non-space test flights.

But Unity will fly no more. Instead, Virgin Galactic is grounding Unity's SpaceShipTwo design in favor of its new "Delta Class" of spacecraft that are designed to fly more often.

Galactic 07 was Virgin Galactic's second mission of 2024. Its first flight of the year, Galactic 06, saw the first Ukrainian woman reach (suborbital) space.

Tickets for these flights are quite the investment, typically selling for $450,000. Passengers on Virgin Galactic's spaceplane experience a few minutes of weightlessness and get to see a view of Earth that very few get to see in a lifetime.

The suborbital spaceflight will also carried research payloads from Purdue University and University of California, Berkeley. According to the company's statement, Purdue's experiment focused on the "propellant slosh in fuel tanks of maneuvering spacecraft" while U.C. Berkeley tested out a new type of 3D printing in microgravity.

Since 2018, Virgin Galactic has flown payloads as part of NASA's Flight Opportunities program and most recently was selected to be a contracted flight provider for NASA for the next five years.

Axiom Space, a Houston-based private spaceflight company, has completed three crewed trips to date to the International Space Station, and has its fourth mission, (Ax-4), targeted for October at the earliest. The company has partnered with Virgin Galactic on several previous flights.

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