Virgin Galactic’s next spaceflight is less then two weeks away.
The company announced today (Aug. 28) that it’s targeting Sept. 8 for the launch of Galactic 03, its third commercial spaceflight and eighth space mission overall.
Galactic 03 will take three paying customers to and from suborbital space from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Virgin Galactic hasn’t identified those passengers yet, but we know they’ve been ticket-holders for a long time.
“The three Galactic 03 crewmembers are the first of Virgin Galactic’s group of ‘Founder’ astronauts — the first customers whose forward-thinking vision and early ticket purchases helped make the dream of regular commercial spaceflights a reality,” Virgin Galactic wrote in a statement today.
“The Galactic 03 crew bought their tickets as early as 2005 and, since then, have been an active part of the company’s vibrant Future Astronaut community,” they added.
The trio will become Virgin Galactic’s 14th, 15th and 16th astronauts, according to the company. They’ll fly with Colin Bennett, one of Virgin Galactic’s astronaut instructors.
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Galactic 03’s passengers will ride in VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic’s space place, which will be piloted by Nicola Pecile and Michael Masucci. The vehicle will lift off beneath the wings of the company’s carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, which will drop it at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters).
Unity will then fire up its onboard rocket motor, making its own way to suborbital space. The passengers will get to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see Earth against the blackness of space before coming back down for a runway landing at Spaceport America.
The most recent such flight, Galactic 02, lifted off on Aug. 10, carrying a former Olympian and a mother-daughter duo to the final frontier for the first time. The daughter in that duo, an 18-year-old college student, also became the youngest person ever to reach space, according to Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic is currently selling tickets for $450,000, but, given that the three customers on Galactic 03 are “founding astronauts,” they likely didn’t pay that much; the seat price has gone up a few times over the years.