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Virgin Galactic completes first commercial space flight

Six people were on the Galactic 01 space flight, including three from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy.
Virgin Galactic's rocket-powered spaceplane during a research flight
Posted at 4:05 PM, Jun 29, 2023

Virgin Galactic successfully completed its first commercial space flight on Thursday.

Six people were on the Galactic 01 spaceflight. Three of them were from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy. The others were Virgin Galactic employees, including the two pilots. 

"This historic space flight was our first commercial flight and our first dedicated commercial research mission — ushering in a new era of repeatable and reliable access to space for private passengers and researchers," said Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier. 

The flight took off from Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert at 8:30 a.m. Mountain Time. Virgin Galactic said its spacecraft reached a top speed approaching Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound. After reaching a height of 52.9 miles above the Earth's surface, the spacecraft made its return. 

The crew landed at Spaceport America around 1 hour and 12 minutes after taking off. 

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The short trip allowed the crew to conduct 13 different experiments about how materials and the human body respond to microgravity. 

"This successful mission gives us just a preview of what discoveries may result from reliable access to space to further scientific knowledge," said Sirisha Bandala, an executive with Virgin Galactic. 

The company said its next commercial spaceflight, which will feature private citizens, will take place in August. Monthly space flights are scheduled thereafter. 

The cost to go to space on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft is $450,000. Interested parties must first put down a $150,000 deposit and pay the remaining balance in the year before their trip.

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