Virgin Galactic completed its first commercial space flight.
Galaxy 01, carrying a crew of six, reached the edge of space on a roughly 90-minute flight.
A rocket is launched from an aircraft at an altitude of about 50,000 feet, and its engines ignite, climbing the rocket in a near vertical climb to an altitude of about 50 miles above Earth.
The crew included three members from Italy—two Italian Air Force colonels and an aeronautical engineer from the Italian National Research Council—as well as their Virgin Galactic trainer and the shuttle’s two pilots.
The flight took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico on a research mission that will see the crew conduct 13 scientific research experiments.
Passengers unveiled the Italian flag after achieving weightlessness to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Italian Air Force, before returning to their seats before returning to Earth.
The VSS Unity spacecraft returned safely to the runway at around 4.45pm UK time on Thursday, with Virgin Galactic tweeting: “Welcome back to Earth, #Galicate01! Our pilot, crew and spacecraft have landed successfully.”
While Galaxy 01 is billed as Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight, there will be no tourists on board this time around, but an upcoming flight in August will carry paying customers.
Virgin Galactic says its first commercial spaceflight represents a new era of government-funded commercial human research missions.
The company has been working for years to carry paying passengers on short space trips, and finally won federal approval in 2021 and completed its final test flight in May.
Spaceflight collects data through wearable payloads and sensors, as well as autonomous payloads installed in the cabin.
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Virgin Galactic said that if all goes well, it will fly again in early August, with monthly flights thereafter.
The company said it has booked about 800 backlog customers, charging anywhere from $250,000 to $450,000 per seat.