No tears, only launches now: Virgin Galactic heads back to space as Virgin Orbit goes under
Update: The flight, launch, and glide were all successful and the crew is back Earthside.
🙌 Touchdown, VSS Unity! Our crew and spaceship are back on Earth after landing smoothly at Spaceport America, New Mexico. #Unity25
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) May 25, 2023
In space, no one can hear you cry. That's probably why Virgin Galactic is headed up there so soon after the untimely demise of its sister company, Virgin Orbit — currently being salvaged for parts. After a nearly two year hiatus, the space tourism company is ready to fly again and plans to do so tomorrow morning.
Virgin Galactic's first flight was back in 2021, carrying crew from the company and founder Richard Branson. While it was by most accounts a success, the FAA took issue with a deviation from the flight plan and grounded the company for a short while.
Since then the company has been working on updating its flight hardware and infrastructure to support its ambitious plan to eventually offer suborbital flights to the edge of space on a daily basis. As Mike Moses, now president of spaceline missions and safety, told me shortly after 2021's launch, it's partly building and adapting the spacecraft themselves, but also streamlining their processes for inspections and so on.
The schedule they were hoping for was definitely not what actually took place, and the company has been pouring money into the endeavor with basically no revenue since then, but as one of very few space tourism companies actually flying, the potential for income in the medium term is pretty significant. Their investors don't seem too spooked, outwardly at least.
Tomorrow's launch will carry Virgin Galactic employees Jamila Gilbert, Christopher Huie, Luke Mays and Beth Moses, plus the two pilots, Mike Masucci and CJ Sturckow.
As before, the "mothership" VMS Eve will take off traditionally and take the spacecraft VSS Unity to 50,000 feet, where the latter will detach and rocket to the edge of space before gliding to a landing back at the Spaceport in New Mexico.
Takeoff is scheduled for 8 AM Mountain time, 7 AM Pacific. They aren't doing live video of the launch, but Virgin Galactic said they'll provide frequent updates and we will add any relevant new info to this post.