Virgin Galactic will launch its first commercial flight into space from the United States on Thursday, a suborbital flight signed by British billionaire Richard Branson that aims to usher in a new era in the space industry. A crew of three passengers, all of them Italian, will be on board the aircraft piloted by a former US Air Force officer, Michael Musucci, and the former pilot of the Italian air force, Nicholas Pecile. Also going will be Virgin’s astronaut instructor, Colin Bennett.
The three passengers are two Italian air force officers and an engineer, all with the goal of collecting biometric data, measuring cognitive performance, and recording how certain liquids and solids mix in microgravity conditions. for the colonel Walter Villadei, cAs the mission commander, the flight is part of training for a future mission as an astronaut to the International Space Station. Lieutenant colonel and doctor Angelo Landolfi, For his part, he will carry out the biometric tests and his physiological responses. AND Pantaleone Carlucci, engineer and member of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) will conduct tests involving the use of multiple sensors that examine heart rate, brain function and other human performance metrics during spaceflight and in microgravity.
The flight will depart from 9 in the morning (17 Spanish time) from Spaceport America, the first commercial spaceport built in the world. It was inaugurated in 2011 with an investment of about 200 million dollars and is located in the middle of the desert, 72 kilometers north of Las Cruces. The journey is scheduled to take an hour and a half and the spacecraft, VSS Unity, will reach an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) to begin with, a voyage dubbed Galactic 01 that comes two years after Branson himself flew alongside to five other members of Virgin Galactic as part of a test of their space rocket.
Once the ship reaches 50,000 feet, Unity will break free from the mother ship and fall as the space plane’s rocket ignites, sending the vehicle upward at supersonic speed into the blackness of space for about 50-55 miles. (80-89 km) high. If everything goes as planned, the ship would fly again at the beginning of August, with monthly flights thereafter, according to the company.
Virgin seeks to write one more episode of a race to dominate tourist flights to space in which two other US companies backed by billionaires, Space X (Elon Musk) and Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos) are also fully involved. Of course, this will not be the prototype trip that the company of the 72-year-old Briton hopes to normalize. It will have a markedly scientific purpose.