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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Virgin Galactic launches VSS Unity space plane on final suborbital spaceflight with crew...

• https://www.space.com, By Meredith Garofalo

It was Virgin Galactic's seventh commercial spaceflight mission and the company's second of 2024.

Virgin Galactic launched six people to suborbital space on Saturday (June 8), launching a Turkish astronaut and three space tourists on what was the final voyage of the VSS Unity space plane.

Unity, attached to the belly of its carrier plane Eve,  took off from runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico at 10:31 a.m. EDT (1431 GMT) and carried to an altitude of 44,562 feet (13,582 meters) over the next hour, where it was dropped and ignited its rocket engine to carry two pilots and four passengers to space and back. The mission, called Galactic 07, reached an altitude of 54.4 miles (87.5 km) and marked the seventh commercial spaceflight by Virgin Galactic on Unity, which is being retired to make way for the company's new "Delta" class of spacecraft rolling out in 2026.

"I will need much more time to try and process what just happened," Tuva Atasever, the Turkish Space Agency astronaut on the flight, said in a post-flight press conference, adding that the view of Earth was indescribable. "It's not something you can describe with adjectives. It's an experiential thing … you just feel it in your gut."

Atasever's trip on on Galactic 07 was brokered by Axiom Space, a company that also flew a Turkish astronaut to the International Space Station with SpaceX on the private Ax-3 mission earlier this year. Atasever was a backup astronaut on the Ax-3 flight and oversaw three different experiments on Galactic 07.

Joining Atasever on the Virgin Galactic flight were VSS Unity commander Nicola Pecil and pilot Jameel Janjua. Virgin Galactic pilots Andy Edgell and C.J. Sturckow, a former NASA astronaut, flew the VMS Eve carrier plane. 

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