First Virgin Galactic commercial flight in June as Richard Branson looks to restore sheen

  • Billionaire Richard Branson’s space-tourism venture, Virgin Galactic Holdings, has finally announced the date for its first commercial passenger mission.

| Updated on: Jun 17 2023, 00:07 IST
In Pics: February’s stunning Snow Moon backdrops SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch
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1/6 According to the Maine Farmers' Almanac which began publishing Native Indian names for full Moons in the 1930s, February’s full Moon is called Snow Moon or Storm Moon because of the heavy snowfall during the season in various parts of the world. (Twitter/Cygnusx112)
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2/6 SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on February 7 at 0332 GMT. The rocket whizzed past the full Moon, creating a spectacular sight for astronomers and skywatchers alike.  (Twitter/EthanWalshPhoto)
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3/6 After the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, the first-stage booster separated and landed on a drone ship minutes later. The launch was captured by people watching February’s Snow Moon along the coast of Florida.  (Twitter/JerryPikePhoto)
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4/6 Skywatchers and astrophotographers even took to Twitter to share the stunning images captured by them. Twitter user TJWallerPhotos wrote, “Yeeehaw!! Finally got the coveted "rocket passing the moon" shot last night during the @SpaceX AmazonasNexus launch.”  (Twitter/TJWallerPhotos)
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5/6 Another Twitter user named AdxPvdPhoto wrote, “Last night’s SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of the Amazonas Nexus mission with a nearly full moon rising in the clear night sky.” (Twitter/AdxPvdPhoto)
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6/6 Why does a full Moon occur? Well, a full moon occurs when the side of the Moon facing Earth is fully lit up by the Sun. There are a few different types of unusual full moon types, which include blood moons, supermoons, blue moons, and harvest moons, and others. The Snow Moon is one of the 12 full Moons of the year and it will reach its maximum elevation in the constellation Leo just after midnight.  (REUTERS)
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Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity seen over Mojave, Calif. (AP)

Billionaire Richard Branson's space-tourism venture, Virgin Galactic Holdings, which has been bravely looking to get back on equal footing with Elon Musk led SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, has finally announced the date for the launch of the company's first commercial passenger flight. Over the last year or so, Virgin had been left trailing both SpaceX and Blue Origin due to innumerable delays that dogged its flight schedule. The company had famously flown Branson to space in July 2021, but failed to do a widely expected commercial follow-up. The flight announcement has instantly been welcomed by investors who pushed the share higher.

Called Galactic 01, the long-awaited mission will take place on June 27. The company also revealed that it will include researchers from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy. In effect, it will be a research flight.

While Virgin has announced the date, it may not fly on it and the company may be actually targetting a flight window between June 27 and June 30.

There was some good news for hundreds of space tourists, who have already bought expensive tickets to fly on Virgin's spacecraft.

Not just the first flight, the company has also revealed that it is planning to launch the second flight, Galactic 02, as soon as early August and thereafter go for a mission-a-month.

It is not certain, but instead of researchers, Galactic 02 flight may well carry tourists.

As many as 800 people have bought tickets across 66 countries, CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement.

VSS Unity has been flown into space and back 5 times so far.

The Virgin spacecraft is named VSS Unity and it will fly out of Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic shares jumped 40% to $5.68 as of 7:37 a.m. in early New York trading, Bloomberg reported. This will be the biggest rise in two years if the shares hold on to the gains.

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First Published Date: 17 Jun, 00:06 IST