Virgin Galactic Eyes Its First Commercial Spaceflight | National News News2america

Virgin Galactic is eyeing Thursday for its first commercial flight to the edge of space as the company aims to become a major player in the growing field of space tourism.

The flight, which will last 90 minutes, launches from New Mexico and takes passengers about 50 miles up into the air. Dubbed “Galactic 01,” it kicks off what the company said will become monthly commercial space flights beginning in August.

But the first flight has scientific goals, with a three-man crew from Italy performing suborbital experiments. They will be accompanied by five Virgin Galactic crew members: one astronaut instructor and four pilots.

“Galactic 01 is our first commercial spaceflight and we’re honored to have been selected by the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council to support their first space research mission,” Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said in a statement. “Virgin Galactic’s research missions will usher in a new era of repeatable and reliable access to space for government and research institutions for years to come.”

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Should the flight be successful, Virgin Galactic, which is owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, joins SpaceX and Blue Origin in the race to commercialize space.

Virgin Galactic performed a successful final crewed safety flight in May. But all eyes will be on the safety of the flight after the fate of the “Titan” submersible last week brought heightened attention to expensive, extreme tourism.

Virgin Galactic reports that it already has “several hundred” customers lined up for its flights, which run at $450,000 a seat.

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