Virgin Galactic unveils pilot spacesuits for space tourist flights (photos)

Virgin Galactic pilots Jameel Janjua (left), Dave Mackay (center) and Kelly Latimer (right) model their spacesuits, which were unveiled on Dec. 4, 2020.
Virgin Galactic pilots Jameel Janjua (left), Dave Mackay (center) and Kelly Latimer (right) model their spacesuits, which were unveiled on Dec. 4, 2020. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

The pilots and passengers who fly on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo vehicle will be nicely color coordinated.

On Friday (Dec. 4), Virgin Galactic and its spacewear partner Under Armour unveiled the suits that SpaceShipTwo's pilots will wear on their trips to suborbital space. The pilot spacesuits are a striking blue, just like the ones that SpaceShipTwo passengers will wear, which were revealed in October 2019.

"A common color palette accentuates the fact that pilots and customers are all part of one crew," Virgin Galactic representatives wrote in an update today.

Related: How Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo works (infographic)

Virgin Galactic chief pilot Dave Mackay models his spacesuit in front of the company's VSS Unity space plane. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

But the pilot suits have wide black stripes on each side, whereas the passenger suits are a more uniform blue. The addition of the black "sets the pilots a little apart and is a reminder that the destination of each flight is the black sky of space," Virgin Galactic wrote in the update.

The pilot suits weigh just over 2.2 lbs. (1 kilogram) and are made of knitted fabric. The non-pressurized suits are personally tailored for each of the eight members of Virgin Galactic's pilot corps and are designed to keep wearers safe and comfortable during all stages of a SpaceShipTwo flight, company representatives said.

Such flights begin on a runway, with the winged SpaceShipTwo attached to a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo. WhiteKnightTwo drops the space plane at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), and SpaceShipTwo then fires up its rocket motor and heads to suborbital space.

Virgin Galactic's non-pressurized pilot suits are personally tailored for each of the eight members of the company's pilot corps. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

The latest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity, has made two such treks to the final frontier, on piloted test flights in December 2018 and February 2019. Unity is gearing up for test spaceflight number three, which is scheduled to lift off during a window that opens on Dec. 11.

The upcoming mission will depart from Spaceport America in New Mexico, the hub of Virgin Galactic's coming commercial operations. It will be the first human spaceflight ever to lift off from New Mexico. VSS Unity's previous two test spaceflights lifted off from California's Mojave Air and Space Port, near the headquarters of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic's manufacturing subsidiary. (Unity relocated to Spaceport America earlier this year to begin the final phases of its test campaign.)

The pilots on the upcoming test flight will be Dave Mackay and C.J. Sturckow. Both will be wearing the newly unveiled Under Armour suit.

"It's a real honor for all of us in the Virgin Galactic pilot corps to wear these spacesuits. The thoughtfulness of the design ensures the suits are not only comfortable and practical, but also bespoke to each pilot," Mackay, who is the company's chief pilot, said in the same update. 

"As soon as you step into the suit, you immediately get a sense of the significance of our mission," Mackay said. "I’m very much looking forward to wearing my own spacesuit during New Mexico’s first human spaceflight later this month and then many times in the future as we share the wonder of space with our future astronauts."

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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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.