It’s been a long time coming, but the big day is almost here.
After 20 years in the making, Virgin Galactic has finally set a date for its first commercial spaceflight.
And it’s happening this week.
Founded in 2004, Virgin Galactic has been gradually working towards developing its space tourism business for nearly two decades.
Its ambitious plans are finally coming to fruition, as its first commercial space flight is scheduled on Thursday, June 29.
The rocket will take off from New Mexico’s Spaceport America, carrying 13 different payloads geared toward suborbital science experiments.
Those onboard the first Virgin Galactic commercial flight aren’t merely tourists, though.
Onboard will be three Italain payload specialists, commanded by Walter Villadei, a colonel in the Italian Air Force.
Villadei previously trained with NASA and Axiom Space for a commercial orbital spaceflight, becoming the backup pilot for the Ax-2 mission to the ISS that flew in May.
Joining Villadei are Angelo Landolfi, an Italian Air Force lieutenant colonel and physician, and Pantaleone Carlucci, a researcher with Italy’s National Research Council.
During the 90-minute “Galactic 01” flight, the Italian crew plans to conduct both human-tended and autonomous experiments.
The plan is to measure cosmic radiation, test the effects of microgravity on fluids and combustion, and collect medical data.
Supposedly, Villadei will be wearing a “smart flight suit” to gather gather biometrical data while testing a suit design intended to operate at up to 6 Gs.
Joining the Italians in the crew cabin will be Colin Bennett, a Virgin Galactic astronaut instructor who will assess the research flight experience.
The overall mission will be commanded by Virgin Galactic’s Mike Masucci, making his fourth flight.
Nicola Percile, a former Italian Air Force pilot now workinbg for Virgin, will be the pilot.
The space company is aiming for its Galactic 01 flight to open the doors to future tourist trips.
Currently, Virgin Galactic has a waiting list of around 800 people for its commercial spaceflights, with a single ticket priced at up to $450,000.