Virgin Galactic to launch next space tourist mission on Oct. 5

earth as seen from virgin galactic's vss unity suborbital space plane.
The view from Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity space plane during its Galactic 02 spaceflight on Aug. 10, 2023. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic plans to fly again early next month.

The company announced today (Sept. 14) that it's targeting Oct. 5 for the launch of Galactic 04, its fourth commercial spaceflight and ninth space mission overall.

There will be three space tourists aboard, one apiece from the U.S., the U.K. and Pakistan. Galactic 04 will therefore break new ground: Nobody from Pakistan has made it to the final frontier before, according to Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic hasn't released the names of the Galactic 04 trio yet. However, one of the crewmembers made such an announcement himself. "On Thursday 5th October I WILL FLY TO SPACE. I've waited all my life to write those words," British advertising executive Trevor Beattie, who bought his ticket more than 15 years ago, wrote today on X (formerly Twitter).

Related: Virgin Galactic launches 3 of its original space tourist customers to the final frontier (video)

Galactic 04 will lift off from Spaceport America in New Mexico, carrying the customers to suborbital space and back. 

They'll make the journey aboard Virgin's VSS Unity space plane, which will be hauled into the sky by a carrier craft named VMS Eve. Eve will drop Unity at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters); the space plane will then fire up its rocket motor to get to suborbital space.

The Galactic 04 trio will become Virgin Galactic's 17th, 18th and 19th astronauts, according to the company. Joining them in Unity's cabin will be Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic's chief astronaut instructor.

Kelly Latimer and C.J. Sturckow will fly VSS Unity, and Nicola Pecile and Jameel Janjua will be at Eve's controls.

VSS Unity passengers get to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see Earth against the blackness of space. A ticket to ride the space plane currently costs $450,000.

The company is making good on its pledge to launch commercial missions roughly once per month with Unity; Galactic 01, Galactic 02 and Galactic 03 launched on June 29, Aug. 10 and Sept. 8, respectively. Virgin also launched two test flights with Unity this year, one each in April and May.

The pace should pick up considerably in 2026 or so, when Virgin Galactic's "Delta" line of space planes starts coming online. Those vehicles are designed to fly once per week, company representatives have said.

Virgin has one main competitor in the suborbital space tourist business: Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' aerospace company. However, Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle hasn't flown in more than a year; it's been grounded since suffering a failure during an uncrewed flight on Sept. 12, 2022.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. ET on Sept. 14 with the announcement from Trevor Beattie.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.