Space tourism company Virgin Galactic is just days away from what should be its final fully crewed test flight before a commercial launch this summer.
The team has announced that it’s currently targeting Thursday, May 25, for a mission that will see four crewmembers blasted to the edge of space aboard the rocket-powered VSS Unity plane.
A video released by Virgin Galactic on Wednesday introduces those who will be settling into their aircraft seats next week for a ride they’ll never forget.
Beth Moses, Luke Mays, Jamila Gilbert, and Christopher Huie will depart Spaceport America in New Mexico aboard VSS Unity, which itself will be carried to an altitude of around 50,000 feet by the larger VMS Eve aircraft.
When Eve releases Unity, the plane will immediately fire up its rocket engine, powering the crew to a peak altitude of around 282,000 feet (53.4 miles/86 km), about 9 miles short of the Kármán line, which is widely regarded as where space begins.
Here, flying more than seven times higher than a commercial passenger jet, the crew will have a few minutes to enjoy the spectacular views of Earth while floating around the cabin during a short period of weightlessness. The occupants will then return to their seats for what should be a relaxing ride back to base.
Getting this far has been far from smooth for Virgin Galactic. An in-flight breakup in 2014 that killed pilot Michael Alsbury set the project back by several years, while more recently various other issues have also impacted the schedule.
But after much work, Virgin Galactic now believes it can launch a commercial service in late June and begin serving the hundreds of people who’ve already handed over big bucks — up to $450,000 each — for the trip of a lifetime.