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Virgin Galactic Holdings will be sending the Galactic 05 mission Thursday, Nov. 2, if the weather holds. This would be the company’s sixth spaceflight this year and 10th to date. This mission would see Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship converted into a suborbital space lab for space-based research.
“The pursuit of scientific discovery has driven Virgin Galactic from the beginning, and we’re thrilled to offer a wide breadth of high-quality and reliable access to space-based research,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic.
The crew of the Galactic 05 mission includes Astronaut 020, Dr. Alan Stern, U.S. planetary scientist and associate vice president in Southwest Research Institute’s (SwRI) Space Sector; Astronaut 021, Kellie Gerardi, U.S. payload specialist and bioastronautics researcher for the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS); and Astronaut 022, a private astronaut of Franco-Italian nationality.
Stern and Gerardi are experienced researchers who plan to conduct human-tended research during the suborbital spaceflight. As a former NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Stern’s mission is planned to be a training flight for a future suborbital spaceflight as part of the NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. He will fly a biomedical harness to collect physiological data related to human spaceflight and conduct practice activities for an astronomical experiment on the NASA flight.
Gerardi, sponsored by IIAS, plans to fly three payloads, two of which will evaluate novel healthcare technologies in microgravity conditions through the collection of biometric data with the Astroskin biomonitoring device, and examine how confined fluid behaves to inform future healthcare technologies in space. Her research has been developed through extensive reduced gravity flight campaigns with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and would now be advanced through a suborbital flight.
The Virgin Galactic crew includes VSS Unity Commander Mike Masucci and Pilot Kelly Latimer, VMS Eve Commander Jameel Janjua and Pilot Andy Edgell, and Astronaut Instructor Colin Bennett.
The Galactic 06 mission is expected to take place in January 2024 to allow time for routine, planned annual vehicle inspections before re-commencing with standard pre-flight readiness procedures. The mission will be planned to carry four private astronauts to space.