Virgin Galactic will launch some of its 1st space tourist customers on 'Galactic 03' today. But who's flying?

part of a shiny silver spacecraft with earth and the blackness of space in the background.
The view from Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity space plane during its Galactic 02 spaceflight on Aug. 10, 2023. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

Update for 11:47 a.m.: The Virgin Galactic flight has landed. The names of the tourists have not yet been released; we will add more updates as they arrive.

Virgin Galactic plans to launch its third commercial spaceflight on Friday (Sept. 8), but you won't be able to watch the action live.

The company is targeting Friday morning for the liftoff of the Galactic 03 mission, which will send three paying customers aloft from Spaceport America in New Mexico. 

Liftoff will occur around the same as Virgin Galactic's previous missions, company officials told via email — so, about 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT). But Galactic 03 won't be livestreamed; we'll have to rely on updates that Virgin Galactic provides via social media.

Related: Virgin Galactic launches 1st mother-daughter team and 1st Olympian to space on 2nd commercial flight (video)

In another departure from previous procedures, Virgin Galactic has not yet identified the three customers. Pretty much all we know is that they've been ticketholders for a long time.

"The three Galactic 03 crewmembers are the first of Virgin Galactic's group of 'Founder' astronauts — the first customers whose forward-thinking vision and early ticket purchases helped make the dream of regular commercial spaceflights a reality," Virgin Galactic wrote in a statement late last month.

"The Galactic 03 crew bought their tickets as early as 2005 and, since then, have been an active part of the company's vibrant Future Astronaut community," they added. (The ticket price back then was considerably cheaper than the current $450,000.)

The trio will fly aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity space plane with Colin Bennett, one of the company's astronaut instructors. Unity will be piloted by Nicola Pecile and Michael Masucci.

Unity lifts off beneath the wings of VMS Eve, Virgin Galactic's carrier aircraft. Eve drops the space plane at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), at which point Unity fires its rocket motor to get up to suborbital space. Both Unity and Eve come back to Earth for runway landings.

Galactic 03 is Virgin Galactic's third commercial spaceflight, after Galactic 02 on Aug. 10 and Galactic 01 on June 29. When test flights are included, VSS Unity has reached the final frontier a total of seven times to date.

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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.

  • Krystal Cane
    This is probably because billions of average people are tired of seeing people with too much money wasted it on things that are not important.
  • dangles
    right... go watch some more "desperate housewives".