Virgin Galactic carried out its first suborbital mission of the year on January 26, and at the same time began preparing to end the flights of its Unity space plane.
The VSS Unity spacecraft, attached to the VMS Eve mothership, lifted off from Spaceport America in New Mexico at 12:00 p.m. ET. Unity separated about 45 minutes later and ignited its hybrid rocket engine. According to the data provided by the company the aircraft reached a maximum height of 88.8 kilometersbefore returning back to the spaceport’s runway at 12:56 p.m. ET.
Virgin Galactic’s Galactic Flight 06 carried four paying customers and two pilots. Previous commercial flights had only three customers on board. As with previous flights, Virgin Galactic did not release the identities of the four astronauts until after the mission. They are them Americans Neil Kornswiet and Robie Vaughn, Ukrainian Lina Borozdina and Austrian Franz Haider.
“The success of the Galactic 06 flight and the company’s other commercial space flights in recent months only increases our confidence in the sustainability of our product and the ability to deliver superior experiences to our customers,” Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said in a statement.
However, the company also announced that it would soon end VSS Unity flights, which justified by the need to save funds for the development of its new generation of Delta-class suborbital transport aircraft. “With the ongoing production of our next-generation Delta-class ships, we look forward to expanding our flight capacity, with testing expected to begin next year and commercial operations in 2026,” Colglazier said in a statement.