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Virgin Galactic’s First Test Passenger Receives Commercial Astronaut Wings from US Aviation Regulator

"Commercial human space flight is now a reality,” says Wayne Monteith

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FILE - Virgin Galactic rocket plane, the WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane, with SpaceShipTwo passenger craft takes off from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif., Feb. 22, 2019. VOA

Virgin Galactic’s first test passenger received her commercial astronaut wings from the U.S. aviation regulator on Tuesday after flying on the company’s rocket plane to evaluate the customer experience in February.

Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor, Beth Moses, who is a former NASA engineer, became the first woman to fly to space on a commercial vehicle when she joined pilots David Mackay and Mike Masucci on SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity.

The wings were presented to the three-person crew at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado by the Federal Aviation Administration’s associate administrator for commercial space, Wayne Monteith.

“Commercial human space flight is now a reality,” he said.

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Navy Aviation Warfare Insignia. Wikimedia

The February test flight nudged Richard Branson’s space travel company closer to delivering suborbital flights for the more than 600 people who have paid Virgin Galactic about $80 million in deposits. Branson has said he hopes to be the first passenger on a commercial flight in 2019.

The 90-minute flight, during which passengers will be able to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the Earth’s curvature, costs $250,000 — a price that the company said will increase before it falls.

Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are also in the space tourism race. Blue Origin has launched its New Shepard rocket to space, but its trips have not yet carried humans.

SpaceX last year named Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa as its first passenger on a voyage around the moon, tentatively scheduled for 2023.

Moses, who as a NASA engineer worked on the assembly of the International Space Station, is designing a three-day training program for Virgin Galactic’s future space tourists.

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The wings were presented to the three-person crew at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado by the Federal Aviation Administration’s associate administrator for commercial space, Wayne Monteith. Wikimedia

“I gleaned a lot of firsthand information that we can roll into the design and then also into the training,” she said on her return to earth in Mojave, California, in February.

The passengers, some of whom have been signed up since 2004, will train in a mock-up cabin at New Mexico’s Spaceport America before their flights.

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Moses told Reuters she aims for customers to arrive in space “not wondering what noise they just heard or being surprised by the G they just felt.”

Virgin Galactic’s Branson will also receive the annual Space Achievement Award at the symposium in recognition of the company’s two crewed test flights, the first from U.S. soil since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011. (VOA)

Next Story

Virgin Galactic to be World’s First Publicly Traded Company

The company announced the completion of the merger on Friday

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Virgin Galactic revealed the arrangement with Social Capital Hedosophia in July. Wikimedia Commons

Richard Branson’s commercial human spaceflight venture Virgin Galactic is set to become the world’s first publicly traded company next week following the completion of its merger with venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia.

The resulting company is named Virgin Galactic Holdings (VGH) and its common stock, units and warrants are expected to commence trading on the New York Stock Exchange on October 28.

Virgin Galactic revealed the arrangement with Social Capital Hedosophia in July. The company announced the completion of the merger on Friday.

Virgin Galactic already has customer reservations from more than 600 people in 60 countries representing approximately $80 million in total collected deposits, and over $120 million of potential revenue.

Virgin Galactic, World, Company
The resulting company is named Virgin Galactic Holdings (VGH) and its common stock, units and warrants are expected to commence trading on the New York Stock Exchange on October 28. Wikimedia Commons

“Today is the start of a new era for the human spaceflight industry. VG has already pioneered several important space milestones, including sending the first test passenger to space onboard a commercial vehicle, and today’s announcement is no different,” George Whitesides, Cheif Executive Officer (CEO) at Virgin Galactic Holdings, said in a statement.

“Now that VG is a publicly traded firm, anyone can invest in a human spaceflight company that is striving to truly transform the market and be part of the excitement of the commercial space industry,” Whitesides said.

As a result of this transaction, Virgin Galactic has received over $450 million of primary proceeds and at market close on Friday, the business has a market capitalisation of $2.3 billion.

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Virgin Galactic earlier this month unveiled the spacesuits its paying passengers will wear on space tourism, which are expected to commence in 2020. (IANS)