Galactic 02 | SpaceShipTwo

Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)
August 10, 2023 – 15:21 UTC | 09:21 MST
Mission NameVSS Unity 26
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
Virgin Galactic
(Who’s paying for this?)
Virgin Galactic
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?Clear
This will be the:– 4th fully crewed flight of SpaceShipTwo
– 27th flight of VSS Unity
– 16th mission for SpaceShipTwo

– 4th mission for SpaceShipTwo in 2023
– 7th crewed flight of VSS Unity
Where to watchOfficial livestream

What’s All This Mean?

For its second commercial spaceflight, Virgin Galactic will conduct a private astronaut mission, Galactic 02. Each seat is paid for by a third party private sources, no government funding involved for the seats. 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, including 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 26?

VSS Unity has the ability to carry up to six people, two of whom are trained and experienced pilots, while the others are passengers. For Galactic 02, Kelly Latimer and CJ Sturckow will serve as the mission pilots of VSS Unity. The mothership, VMS Eve, will be piloted by Nicola Pecile. Accompanying the pilots of VSS Unity are Jon Goodwin, Keisha Schahaff, Anastatia Mayers, and Virgin Galactic employee Beth Moses

Jon Goodwin

The 80-year-old Jon Goodwin will take to the skies and outer reaches of our atmosphere and, despite his age, complete many firsts. Goodwin will be the first Olympian to travel to space. He competed in the C-2 slalom event (slalom canoeing) in the 1972 Munich Olympic games for Great Britain.

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, a neurological disease without a cure, Goodwin will become the second person to travel to space with the condition. Preceding him was the late NASA astronaut Rich Gillford who, on his second spaceflight after being diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s, still flew on STS-76.

This will be his first spaceflight. He was an early Virgin Galactic ticket holder.

Jon Goodwin, Galactic 02
Keisha Schahaff, Galactic 02

Keisha Schahaff

An entrepreneur, 46-year-old Keisha Schahaff, won a draw for a pair of tickets by the non-profit Space for Humanity. Upon successful completion of this flight, Schahaff, alongside her daughter, will become the first astroanut from Antigua and Barbuda.

In her daily life, Schahaff is a health and wellness coach who is passionate about empowering women.

This will be her first spaceflight.

Anastatia Mayers

At only 18 years old, Anastatia Mayers will join the list of some of the youngest people to travel to space. Daughter of the aforementioned Keisha Schahaff, Mayers currently attends University of Aberdeen in Scotland and is in her second year studying Philosophy and Physics.

Another first for the pair, they will become the first mother–daughter pair to travel to space together.

This will be her first spaceflight.

Anastatia Mayers, Galactic 02
Beth Moses, Galactic 02

Beth Moses

As the Chief Astronaut Instructor at Virgin Galactic, Beth Moses holds critical importance to the Virgin Galactic team and their ventures into inviting the general public onto their flights. She graduated from Purdue University with bachelors and masters degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

Moses has flown three times before for Virgin Galactic.

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 co-pilot Michael Alsbury. The pilot, Peter Siebold, also suffered severe injuries in the accident. That flight was conducted 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, but now produces the 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 carries a flight crew of two, plus additional personnel 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).

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