Virgin Galactic's Private Spaceflight Program Completes First Crewed Test

The flight was originally slated for December 2020.
Loukia Papadopoulos

After many delays, Virgin Galactic finally completed its rocket-powered test on May 22 from a base in New Mexico making the state the third U.S. state to launch humans into space. The flight was originally scheduled for December 2020.

 “Today’s flight showcased the inherent elegance and safety of our spaceflight system, while marking a major step forward for both Virgin Galactic and human spaceflight in New Mexico. Space travel is a bold and adventurous endeavor, and I am incredibly proud of our talented team for making the dream of private space travel a reality. We will immediately begin processing the data gained from this successful test flight, and we look forward to sharing news on our next planned milestone.” Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said in a statement.

VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve, and carried onboard CJ Sturckow, Dave Mackay, Kelly Latimer, and Michael Masucci. 

“Fifteen years ago, New Mexico embarked on a journey to create the world’s first commercial spaceport,’’ said Sir Richard Branson.

‘’Today, we launched the first human spaceflight from that very same place, marking an important milestone for both Virgin Galactic and New Mexico. I am proud of the team for their hard work and grateful to the people of New Mexico who have been unwavering in their commitment for commercial spaceflight from day one. Their belief and support have made today’s historic achievement possible.”

Although good news, the flight does come a little late. Back in October of 2020, the firm reported that it was preparing for its first suborbital spaceflight from its Spaceport America complex in New Mexico in order to prepare for achieving its goal of providing viable space tourism and research flights.

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In the meantime, the firm's world-first commercial space terminal was opened all the way back in August 2019. All these delays mean the company is hemorrhaging money, something it can simply not afford to continue to do if it wants to achieve its ambitious goals.