Update for Oct. 6: Virgin Galactic has announced that Galactic 04 will now take off at 9:40 a.m. MDT (11:40 ET/1540 GMT).
Virgin Galactic is keeping pace with the company's monthly flight cadence, and is targeting Oct. 6 for the launch of their fourth commercial mission, Galactic 04.
Three space tourists are scheduled to launch on a suborbital trajectory aboard Virgin Galactic's reusable space plane, VSS Unity. Virgin Galactic has not announced a time for Friday's flight, but similar missions that have flown over the last few months have taken place in the morning, with the takeoff of Unity's carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, around 11 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT).
VMS Eve will take off from Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America in New Mexico and will carry Unity and her crew to altitude before releasing the space plane to rocket itself the rest of the way to space.
The VSS Unity spacecraft flies on a suborbital trajectory that allows its passengers several minutes of weightlessness before returning to the runway back at Spaceport America. Though it doesn't reach orbit, Unity will be high enough that passengers will be able to see the curvature of Earth against the dark backdrop of outer space.
What time is the Galactic-04 suborbital launch?
A Virgin Galactic representative confirmed to Space.com via email that liftoff of VMS Eve will take place at 9:40 a.m. MT (11:40 a.m. or 1540 GMT), with Unity's launch approximately 30 minutes later.
With Unity secured between the double cockpits of her carrier aircraft, Eve will carry the space plane to an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). Once at altitude, Unity will be released and will ignite its rocket engine to climb the rest of the way to the edge of space.
Originally, Virgin had targeted Oct. 5 for the Galactic 04 flight. However, on Oct. 1, the company wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that the launch window was moved back to give their "team an additional day to complete vehicle prep and checks," the post read.
Can I watch Virgin Galactic's Galactic 04 spaceflight?
Nope. Virgin Galactic didn't provide streaming coverage for Galactic 03, and won't be providing live video for Galactic 04 either. During their last mission, updates were only provided via X, and that seems to be the case for Galactic 04 as well.
"There will not be a livestream, but everyone can follow Virgin Galactic on X/Twitter for the latest updates ahead of flight and on the day of flight," the representative added.
Further mission updates on Virgin Galactic's X account are expected as launch day approaches, and throughout the morning during the Oct. 6 flight.
Launch update: The #Galactic04 spaceflight will now take place on the second day of our flight window – Friday, October 6 to give our team an additional day to complete vehicle prep and checks. We look forward to taking to the skies in a few days!October 1, 2023
Who is riding on the Galactic 04 spaceflight?
In total, six people will fly to space on Galactic 04: Mission commander Kelly Latimer and pilot C.J. Sturckow will be at the helm of VSS Unity. In the cabin, three private passengers will ride alongside Virgin Galactic's chief astronaut instructor.
Photos: The first space tourists
- Latimer was the first woman to serve as a research pilot at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center. She has logged several thousand hours in the cockpit of dozens of different aircraft, and was at the helm of VMS Eve during Virgin Galactic's first commercial spaceflight mission in June.
- Sturckow was a NASA astronaut from 1995 to 2013, during which time he flew four space shuttle missions, including the first shuttle to launch to the International Space Station (ISS). Galactic 04 will mark Sturckow's eleventh spaceflight.
The private astronauts boarding VSS Unity for Galactic 04 are some of the company's "Founder Astronauts," reserving their seats more than 15 years ago. Designated Virgin Galactic's astronauts 017, 018 and 019, the Galactic 04 crew hail from the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
- Ron Rosano, Virgin Galactic Astronaut 017: Rosano is a space fanatic from Muir Beach, California. He is an astronomy educator who runs multiple websites dedicated to his space ventures and tracking crewed spaceflight, in general. In addition to his ticket for Galactic 04, Rosano has also reserved seats aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket, and Space Perspective's stratospheric balloon, according to his website.
- Trevor Beattie, Virgin Galactic Astronaut 018: Beattie is a long-time British ad executive who's made a name for himself in the media industry, and began marketing Virgin Galactic flights through his company, Beattie McGuinness Bungay, as early as 2006.
- Namira Salim, Virgin Galactic Astronaut 019: Salim founded the nonprofit Space Trust, which advocates for leveraging the growing space sector as a platform for achieving peace on Earth. She is Pakistani, living in Dubai, and is recognized as Pakistan's first astronaut. A true world-adventurer, Salim is also the first Pakistani to venture to the North and South Poles.
Beth Moses was the first woman to fly aboard Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spaceplane. She earned her astronaut wings in 2019 and is designated Virgin Galactic Astronaut 002.
She currently works as the company's chief astronaut instructor and was responsible for overseeing the training of Virgin Galactic's private passengers. She will fly alongside the Galactic 04 passengers as their Galactic liaison and collect observational data to inform future flights. This will be Moses' sixth spaceflight.
Two pilots will sit parallel, one in each of the double fuselages of VMS Eve, during Friday's Galactic 04 flight. The pair will coordinate the release of VSS Unity, before flying the carrier aircraft back to Spaceport America's runway at the end of the mission.
- Jameel Janjua: Janjua is a retired Canadian Air Force Major with an extensive background as a test pilot. He earned a masters of science in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and flew as VMS Eve's pilot during Galactic 01.
- Nicola Pecile: Pecile has flown on 170 different aircraft since beginning his flying career in 1991, which included service in the Italian Air Force as a lieutenant colonel. He has a total of 7,700 flight hours, according to Virgin Galactic.
How long will Virgin Galactic's spaceflight last?
The exact mission length is uncertain. On Virgin Galactic's past commercial flights, like June's Galactic 01, about 1.5 hours passed between VMS Eve takeoff and the VSS Unity landing back at Spaceport America.