Galactic 01 | SpaceShipTwo

Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)
June 29, 2023 – 15:00 UTC | 08:00 MST
Mission NameVSS Unity 25
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
Virgin Galactic
Customer
(Who’s paying for this?)
Virgin Galactic
RocketSpaceShipTwo
Launch LocationVMS Eve, Spaceport America, New Mexico, USA
Payload massN/A
Where is the spacecraft going?Suborbital
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?Yes
Where will the first stage land?SpaceShipTwo will land on a runway at Spaceport America, New Mexico, USA
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?There are no fairings on SpaceShipTwo
Are these fairings new?There are no fairings on SpaceShipTwo
How’s the weather looking?Cloudy
This will be the:– 3rd fully crewed flight of SpaceShipTwo
– 26th flight of VSS Unity
– 15th mission for SpaceShipTwo

– 3rd mission for SpaceShipTwo in 2023
– 6th crewed flight of VSS Unity
Where to watchOfficial livestream

What’s All This Mean?

For the first time, Virgin Galactic will conduct a commercial spaceflight, Galactic 01. This flight is government funded and paves a path for future commercial flights funded by the government that conduct research with humans. Some experiments including studying the bodily functions while others are rack-mounted and will recieve interaction with the experiments.

The launch will take place from Spaceport America in New Mexico and will follow a suborbital trajectory. A total of six people will be onboard which includes two pilots and four mission specialists. Following the launch, the spacecraft will coast back to Earth and land on a runway like an ordinary airplane.

Who Is On Unity 25?

VSS Unity has the ability to carry up to six people, two of which are trained and experienced pilots, while the others are passengers. For Galactic 01, Nicola Pecile and Michael Masucci will serve as the mission pilots of VSS Unity. The mothership, VMS Eve, will be piloted by Jamile Janjua and Kelly Latimer. Accompanying the pilots of VSS Unity are Col. Walter Villadei, Pantaleone Carlucci, Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi, and Colin Bennet.

Col. Walter Villadei

A colonel in the Italian Air Force, Walter Villadei is finally ready to go to space. In 2021, he started training at NASA through Axiam space and was on standby as a backup pilot during the Ax-2 mission.

Through his training, he was qualified on Soyuz and ISS systems, as well on Orlan and Extravehicular Activities (EVA). However, his focus will be on the rack-mounted paylods during the Galactic 01 flight.

This spaceflight and the science he is conducting are aiding in his training for a future orbtial flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

This will be his first flight to space.

Pantaleone Carlucci

Pantaleone Carlucci is an engineer at the National Research Council of Italy. He has worked there for more than 8 years in engineering and scientific instrumentation on aircraft platforms.

Carlucci has worked with multiple companies on stratosphereic platforms and air launch through CNR signed agreements.

For Galatic 01, Carlucci will be wearing sensors that examine his heart rate and break functions. This will allow more data to be gathered on how humans function on a short duration flight that has a few minutes of microgravity.

This will be his first spaceflight.

Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi

A member of the Italian Air Force, Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi works as a physician. His studies as an undergraduate included medicine and surgery, diving and hyperbaric medicine, and forensic medicine. His masters degrees include public health and preventative medicine, and international military strategic studies. Lt. Col. Landolfi has a doctorates in Legal Medicine and Forensic Science.

In Russia, he trained as a crew surgeon during a Cosmonaut training program. On Galactic 01, Lt. Col. Landolfi will observe how certain liquids and solids mix in microgravity. Additionally, he will measure cognitive performance.

This will be his first spaceflight.

Colin Bennet

Unlike past flight, Colin Bennet will be the only Virgin Galactic employee to fly on this flight, with the exception of the pilots. At Virgin Galactic, Bennet works as an Astronaut Instructor, training people how to remain safe during a flight on a Virgin Galactic vehicle.

On Galactic 01, Bennet will serve as an observing member of the crew and assess the experiance of the other crew members during the flight. During the lead up to launch, Bennet was the lead instructor carrying out the training and preparation of the Italian members.

This will be his second spacelfight, as he joined Sir Richard Brandon on the first fully crewed mission, Unity 22.

What science is on Galactic 01?

There are a total of 13 elements related to science and research on Galactic 01. Many of these experiments are rack-mounted some of which will require hands on interaction from the crew members. The section above details which some experiments crew members will be working with specifically. Others experiments will be conducted by the crew, naturally. All members will be wearing monitoring systems to examine their bodily functions through different phases of flight.Below are details on some of the experiments.

Italian Combustion Experiment (ICE)

This experiment comes from the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) Institue of Sciences and Technologies for Sustainable Energy and Mobility (STEMS) [CNR-STEMS]. It will study the combustion characteristics of renewable liquid biofuels and the behavior of complex fluids at high temperature. An application of such a study would be the efficientcy of these fuels for eco-sustainable and energy and propulsion systems.

Based on an Italian experiment from the International Space Station in 2013, this payload will operatre autonomously, triggering it’s three apparatuses at the same time.

Cabin Air Quality (CAQ)

Something not often talked about his air quality. When flying on an airplane, how often do you think about the quality of the air you are breathing in? Fortunately, aircraft fly in the air, which can be used for various spacecraft functions. Spacecraft, however, don’t have access to new air.

Another autonomous payload from the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) Institute of Atmosphereic Science and Climate (ISAC), the CNR-ISAC will utilize a nanoparticle monitor to measure the air quality of the cabin throughout the flight. Data will allow scientists to determine the source of unwanted particulates, which will enable these sources to be studied and fixed on long duration flights to space.

TEStin in Space (SUNRISE-VG02-TESIS)

A university-backed experiment from the University of Rome Tor Vergata, this experiment will study the effect on microgravity on liquid mixing. Once micorgravity is reached, Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi will activiate the syringines, starting the experiment. The production of foams, as a result of this mixing, is of particular interest in this experiment. These foams are difficult to produce under the influcence of Earth gravity. Some applications of this research includes in-space manufracturing and biomedical.

Space Motion Sickness

One of the many experiments studying the humans on board, the Italian Air Force Official Flight Test Center is studying vibrations during spaceflight. These vibrations have been known to cause motion sickness in some astronauts. In an effort to discover ways to elimite this motion sickness, this autonomous payload mounted underneath a seat will map the vibration profile transmitted to the passengers during flight.

For more information on other experiments and payloads, visit virgingalactic.com

What Is SpaceShipTwo?

SpaceShipTwo is a rocket powered spaceplane that launches from under the wing of a carrier aircraft. It uses a hybrid rocket engine to boost itself up to beyond the edge of space to give paying passengers a few minutes of weightlessness.

VSS Unity is the second SpaceShipTwo vehicle. The previous vehicle, VSS Enterprise, crashed in 2014 in an accident which killed the co-pilot Michael Alsbury. The pilot, Peter Siebold, also suffered severe injuries in the accident. That flight was from Mojave Air and Space Port, California, before Virgin Galactic moved its operations to New Mexico. An investigation found that the crash occurred when the tail section accidentally moved into the feathered position during powered ascent.

SpaceShipTwo firing its hybrid rocket engine
SpaceShipTwo firing its hybrid rocket engine (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo and its mothercraft, White Knight Two, were designed and built by The Spaceship Company, formed by Burt Rutan and Sir Richard Branson in 2005. Burt Rutan’s pre-existing company, Scaled Composites, previously built and flew SpaceShipOne.

SpaceShipTwo interior view and details
SpaceShipTwo interior view and details (Credit Gareth Burgess)

SpaceShipTwo is designed to fly with two flight crew and four passengers. It uses its onboard rocket motor for powered ascent following separation from White Knight Two. On reaching apogee, it deploys a special feathered tail section in order to gain the proper nose-down attitude prior to reentry.

SpaceShipTwo in the feathered configuration
Render of SpaceShipTwo in the feathered configuration (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo’s Rocket Motor

SpaceShipTwo originally used a hybrid motor developed by Sierra Nevada Corporation. This engine used hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) as fuel and nitrous oxide (N20) as oxidizer. A hybrid engine is one in which the fuel and oxidizer exist in different phases of matter. In this case, the fuel is solid, and the oxidizer is stored as liquid and consumed as a gas.

Example schematic for a hybrid rocket engine
Example schematic for a hybrid rocket engine (Credit: Jack / public domain)

Around the time of the crash of VSS Enterprise, Virgin Galactic experimented with changing the engine design to run on a polyamide plastic fuel instead of HTPB. Since then, however, Virgin has switched back to using HTPB again, but now produces the current RocketMotorTwo engines in house instead of buying them from SNC.

What Is White Knight Two?

White Knight Two is the carrier aircraft that takes SpaceShipTwo up from local ground level to an altitude above mean sea level of 15,000 m (50,000 ft). The carrier aircraft then releases SpaceShipTwo which begins its own powered flight seconds later.

White Knight Two then returns to land under normal jet engine power, as during its ascent. The aircraft has four Pratt & Whitney PW308 engines and two fuselages. Each engine provides 30.7 kN (6,900 lbf) of thrust. One fuselage holds the active cockpit for control of the aircraft, while the other fuselage is a direct copy of SpaceShipTwo. This is so that White Knight Two can be used for training crew and passengers on what to expect for their flights on board SpaceShipTwo.

White Knight Two deploys SpaceShipTwo
White Knight Two deploys SpaceShipTwo (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The first White Knight Two vehicle, VMS Eve, flew for the first time in 2008. It has a flight crew of two people, plus additional people to take part in the deployment of the spacecraft, and those undergoing training for SpaceShipTwo.

White Knight Two has a service ceiling of 21,000 m (70,000 ft), based on a relatively large wingspan of 43 m (141 ft).

3 comments
  1. Your first paragraph has the word experiment spelled wrong..If you have problems with spelling..better double check all things ..

    1. @Maurice: Dude, you could’ve just said: “typo in 1st paragraph: experiment”. (BTW, “double-check” is written with a hyphen, in case you *actually* care about spelling. Not to mention your cringy punctuation and spacing.)

  2. Technically, WhiteKnightTwo is the first stage. Since it is crewed as well as was designed to be reusable, they try hard to recover it on every flight. 😉

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