For observers of the commercial spaceflight world, one big question has loomed over the industry for a few years: when, exactly, will Virgin Galactic move from test flights to sending paying customers into orbit? A lot has been written about the company’s trials and tribulations — Nicholas Schmidle at The New Yorker has written a number of good articles on the subject over the years. And now, Richard Branson’s ambitious venture is on the verge of making a giant leap of its own.
And by “on the verge,” we mean “later this month.” Galactic 01, Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight, is set to take off sometime between June 27 and June 30.
Galactic 01 is, as per the company’s announcement, a scientific mission that will convey members of the Italian Air Force and Italy’s National Research Council into space to conduct research into the effects of microgravity. Galactic 02 is set to take off sometime in August 2023, and Virgin Galactic plans to launch subsequent missions into space on a monthly basis thereafter.
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Engadget’s report on the planned launch offers some useful context for the mission, including a rundown on where this will put Virgin Galactic relative to competitors Blue Origin and SpaceX. (Short version: behind the former and ahead of the latter when it comes to commercial spaceflight.) Galactic 01 hasn’t taken off yet, but assuming all goes according to plan, it’ll represent another big step forward for commercial space travel.
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