Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) has officially announced that the 'Galactic 05' flight window is scheduled to open on November 2, 2023. This upcoming mission marks the company's sixth spaceflight this year and its tenth spaceflight to date. The 'Galactic 05' mission will once again see Virgin Galactic's Spaceship converted into a suborbital space lab for space-based research, underscoring the company's commitment to providing easier access to space for innovative microgravity and space-based research.
Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, expressed the company's dedication to scientific discovery, stating, "The pursuit of scientific discovery has driven Virgin Galactic from the beginning, and we're thrilled to offer a wide breadth of high-quality and reliable access to space-based research."
The 'Galactic 05' mission will involve a dynamic crew:
- Astronaut 020, Dr. Alan Stern, a U.S. Planetary Scientist and Associate Vice President in Southwest Research Institute's (SwRI) Space Sector.
- Astronaut 021, Kellie Gerardi, a U.S. Payload Specialist and Bioastronautics Researcher for the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS).
- Astronaut 022, a Private Astronaut of Franco-Italian nationality.
'Galactic 05' represents Virgin Galactic's sixth space research mission and its second this year. Alan and Kellie, both seasoned researchers, plan to conduct human-tended research during the suborbital spaceflight. Alan Stern, a former NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, advocates for commercial suborbital research platforms. Sponsored by SwRI, his mission is designed as a training flight for a future suborbital spaceflight as part of NASA's Flight Opportunities program. During 'Galactic 05,' Alan will collect physiological data related to human spaceflight using a biomedical harness and conduct practice activities for an astronomical experiment on the NASA flight.
Kellie Gerardi, sponsored by IIAS, intends to fly three payloads, two of which will evaluate novel healthcare technologies in microgravity conditions by collecting biometric data with the Astroskin biomonitoring device. Her research, developed through extensive reduced gravity flight campaigns with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), will now be advanced through a suborbital flight.
“After years of sending machines to conduct research on my behalf, I'm thrilled to be making this maiden spaceflight,” said Dr. Alan Stern, on behalf of SwRI. “What sets this flight apart from others, and which likely represents a new kind of space activity, is that more than anything else I will be training—in space--for future space experiments I will be performing with NASA funding. Virgin’s suborbital costs are low enough to open up space training actually in space as a viable opportunity, and that is a game changer."
“This mission represents the beginning of a new era of access to space for the research community, and the culmination of a personal lifelong dream. I’m grateful for the support and confidence that IIAS continues to place in me, and I’m looking forward to paving the way for our many talented researchers who will follow, using space as a laboratory to benefit humanity,” said Kellie Gerardi, on behalf of IIAS. The Virgin Galactic crew includes VSS Unity Commander Mike Masucci and Pilot Kelly Latimer, VMS Eve Commander Jameel Janjua and Pilot Andy Edgell, and Astronaut Instructor Colin Bennett. Colin’s work on ‘Galactic 05’ will complete the in-flight Astronaut Instructor training assessments, and the fourth cabin seat on VSS Unity will be used for additional revenue generation on future flights. The ‘Galactic 06’ mission is expected to take place in January 2024 to allow time for routine, planned annual vehicle inspections before re-commencing with standard pre-flight readiness procedures. The ‘Galactic 06’ mission will be planned to carry four private astronauts to space.