June 14, 2024

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Virgin Galactic launches the VSS Unity spaceplane on final suborbital spaceflight with a 6-member crew (photos)

Virgin Galactic launches the VSS Unity spaceplane on final suborbital spaceflight with a 6-member crew (photos)

Virgin Galactic launched six people into suborbital space on Saturday (June 8), launching a Turkish astronaut and three space tourists on the final flight of its VSS Unity spaceplane.

Unity, attached to the belly of its Eve carrier plane, took off from the runway at Spaceport America Airport in New Mexico at 10:31 a.m. EDT (1431 GMT) and carried it to an altitude of 44,562 feet (13,582 meters) over the next hour, where it was dropped Its rocket engine ignited to transport two pilots and four passengers to space and back. The mission, called Galactic 07, reached an altitude of 54.4 miles (87.5 km) and marked Virgin Galactic’s seventh commercial spaceflight aboard Unity, which will be retired to make way for the new “Delta” class of spacecraft to be launched in 2026. .

“I will need more time to try to process what just happened,” Tuva Atasifer, a Turkish Space Agency astronaut on the flight, said in a post-flight news conference, adding that the view of Earth was indescribable. “It’s not something you can describe with adjectives. It’s an experiential thing… You just feel it in your gut.”

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spaceplane fires its rocket engine to launch two pilots and four passengers into suborbital space and return to the Galactic 07 mission on June 8, 2024. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

Atasevir’s flight on Galactic 07 was facilitated by Axiom Space, a company that also flew a Turkish astronaut to the International Space Station with SpaceX on a special Ax-3 mission earlier this year. Atasifer was a backup astronaut on the Ax-3 flight and supervised three different experiments on Galactic 07.