Virgin Galactic is finally on the cusp of launching its space travel business. After a slow start, the company said he finished his last VSS Unity flight test before commercial operations begin. The Unity 25 mission tested the technology and general knowledge of the astronauts, and arrived in space at approximately 12:26PM Eastern. The launch also made a bit of history: crew member Jamila Gilbert became the first female astronaut in New Mexico, according to Virgin. Gilbert and his colleagues Chris Huie, Luke Mays and Beth Moses are all Virgin employees.
The company has delayed the test several times. The final delay was caused by difficulties raising the VMS Eve aircraft, which carries Unity to 50,000 feet. Virgin completed testing the unpowered plane at the end of April, but its first flight from July 2021when founder Richard Branson teamed up with Moses, Sirisha Bandla and Colin Bennett at Unity 22. Unity 25 is Virgin’s fifth spaceship of any kind.
Successful testing is important to Virgin. It has been losing money for years as it pushes back on its tourism plans, and will lose $500 million in 2022 alone. The company hopes to launch paying customers by the end of June, and it needs those passengers. $450,000 tickets to help recover his money. Now, it’s a matter of proving more than dealing with technical issues.
Virgin follows Blue Origin, which is already there throwing civilians into space. It’s closer to spaceflight than SpaceX, however. While Elon Musk’s clothing announced his moon travel plans years ago, it did not send a A star rocket in space and crew. Not that SpaceX is involved. Virgin is focused on low-cost (if low-cost) ground travel while Starship will be used for monthly passenger flights and NASA’s Moon landing.