Virgin Galactic’s ‘Unity’ spaceplane ends service after flying 4 tourists to space

  • Virgin Galactic’s Unity sent off its final journey on Saturday, June 8
  • The final flight had two crew members, a researcher and three private citizens aboard 
  • The spaceplane had taken 12 trips – seven of which had paying customers aboard

Published on Jun 11, 2024 at 11:24 AM (UTC+4)
by Claire Reid

Last updated on Jun 11, 2024 at 7:55 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceplane has ended service following the successful completion of its 12th flight. 

The spaceplane set off with two pilots, a Turkish Space Agency astronaut, and three private citizens on Saturday (June 8) – flying out to the edge of space and back again. 

Unity was attached to the belly of a carrier plane called Eve; taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

After reaching an altitude of 44,562 feet – Unity was released and its rocket engine ignited to fly those on board to space and back traveling at a top speed of Mach 2.96.

READ MORE! First people to go to space as tourists detail what it’s like

Astronaut reveals what it was like onboard Unity

As you can imagine, being given the chance to see such spectacular views of Earth had a profound impact on those on board. 

Speaking after the trip Turkish Space Agency astronaut Tuva Atasever said: “I will need much more time to try and process what just happened. 

“It’s not something you can describe with adjectives. It’s an experiential thing … you just feel it in your gut.”

Previous Virgin Galactic customer Keisha Schahaff – who flew with her daughter last August – shared a similar sentiment. 

Speaking at the time, she said: “Looking back on our planet, I felt this deeper connection to love.

“I did not feel myself as an individual. I could actually see and feel everything that we are.”

Virgin Galactic began commercial space flights just last year with its inaugural Galactic 01; Saturday’s flight was Galactic 07.

In total, Unity had taken 12 suborbital flights – seven with paying passengers on board. 

What’s next for Virgin Galactic?

However, if you’ve dreamed of taking on suborbital space one day don’t be too downhearted – as Virgin Galactic has revealed Unity is being retired to make way for the new Delta Class ships set to be released in 2026. 

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said in a press release: “Watching our pioneering spaceship Unity return from space on its final commercial flight was a breathtaking and proud moment as we celebrate the ship’s unprecedented achievements in human spaceflight and build momentum for the rollout of our first Delta Class ships in 2026.”

Paying tribute to the newly retired Unity, Virgin Galactic president Mike Moses said: “This vehicle was revolutionary. 

“We tested it, we flew it, we demonstrated and proved to the world that commercial human spaceflight is possible with private funding for private companies.”

He added: “Seven commercial space flights, a single vehicle flying six times in six months last year, that’s groundbreaking. 

“The fact that we can take this vehicle back to back to back on a monthly basis is really revolutionary.”


Claire Reid

Claire Reid is a journalist who hails from the UK but is now living in New Zealand. She began her career after graduating with a degree in Journalism from Liverpool John Moore’s University and has more than a decade of experience, writing for both local newspapers and national news sites. Across her career she's covered a wide variety of topics, including celebrity, cryptocurrency, politics, true crime and just about everything in between.