Ten weeks after its first flight to space, Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity fired up its rocket motor and blasted off on another successful mission. Shortly after 8 am PST today, pilots Dave Mackay and Michael “Sooch” Masucci detached the six-passenger spacecraft from its mother ship, Eve, fired its hybrid engine, and pointed its nose skyward on a Mach 3 flight that peaked at 295,000 feet high – roughly 56 miles above the earth.
On board for the test flight: Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor, Beth Moses, the first non-pilot passenger to fly on the spaceship, who unclipped from her seat at the apex to float for several minutes in zero-g weightlessness while performing tests and observations on the passenger cabin. “Having Beth fly in the cabin today, starting to ensure that our customer journey is as flawless as the spaceship itself, brings a huge sense of anticipation and excitement to all of us here who are looking forward to experiencing space for ourselves,” said Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson. “The next few months promise to be the most thrilling yet.”
“Beth, Sooch, and I just enjoyed a pretty amazing flight,” said Mackay, who became the first Scottish-born astronaut with the mission. “It was thrilling yet smooth and nicely controlled throughout, with a view at the top of the Earth from space, which exceeded all our expectations.” The test flight brings Virgin Galactic one step closer to launching commercial passenger flights, which Branson hopes to begin this year. More than 600 passengers have reserved seats for the suborbital experience.