Inside Virgin Galactic’s astronaut school: Behind-the-scenes video reveals the rigorous


Virgin Galactic customers who have splashed out hundreds of thousands of dollars on a trip to space are finally set to be rewarded. 

The firm, founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, will perform its first commercial flight, ‘Galactic 01’, tomorrow. 

Ahead of the maiden voyage, the four passengers have been through a rigorous training programme at Virgin Galactic‘s ‘astronaut school.’

Behind-the-scenes footage shows the crew preparing for the mission, including test flights, safety training and a flight walkthrough. 

The flight is set to take off at 10:30 ET (15:30 BST) tomorrow. 

Ahead of the maiden voyage, the four passengers have been through a rigorous training programme at Virgin Galactic's 'astronaut school'

Ahead of the maiden voyage, the four passengers have been through a rigorous training programme at Virgin Galactic’s ‘astronaut school’

Virgin Galactic flights 

Ticket price: $450,000 (£360,000)

Takes off from: Spaceport America, New Mexico

Experience lasts: 90 minutes

Cost per minute: £4,000 

Can you float? Just, approximately 5 minutes of weightlessness

Good views? There are 17 windows to catch a glimpse of the Earth

Altitude: 50 miles (80km)

Craft: VSS Unity spaceplane

Passengers: Up to 6 plus 2 pilots

The ‘Galactic 01’ flight will see four passengers board VSS Unity for a 90-minute flight to conduct a series of 13 suborbital science experiments. 

‘We are launching the first commercial spaceline for Earth with two dynamic products – our scientific research and private astronaut space missions,’ said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic.

‘This next exciting chapter for Virgin Galactic has been driven by innovation, determination and a commitment to delivering an unparalleled and truly transformative customer experience.’

Col. Walter Villadei is a senior member of the Italian Air Force, who will be using his experience to prepare for a future trek to the International Space Station. 

Although Col. Villadei has trained as a cosmonaut in Russia, it will be the first time that he has flown into space. 

In 2022, he was selected for training in Houston to prepare for a future space flight with Axiom Space, the company that arranges ‘private astronaut’ missions to the International Space Station (ISS). 

Col. Villadei will also feature as a reserve crew member for the Axiom Mission 2, with an initial agreement already signed to reserve his place on the mission, which is scheduled for the end of 2023. 

Behind-the-scenes footage shows the crew preparing for the mission, including test flights, safety training and a flight walkthrough

Behind-the-scenes footage shows the crew preparing for the mission, including test flights, safety training and a flight walkthrough

This graphic shows how VSS Unity will take its passengers to the edge of space. Virgin Galactic has adopted a revolutionary system that enables VSS Unity to act like both a winged vehicle or a capsule depending on which is more useful at different stages of re-entry

 This graphic shows how VSS Unity will take its passengers to the edge of space. Virgin Galactic has adopted a revolutionary system that enables VSS Unity to act like both a winged vehicle or a capsule depending on which is more useful at different stages of re-entry 

Pantaleone Carlucci – a pilot and technical engineer from the National Research Council of Italy – will be conducting tests to determine human performance metrics during the flight to space. 

Carlucci and the three other members of the crew will conduct a number of tests during the 90-minute flight, such as testing equipment for measuring cosmic radiation, as well as studying various materials in microgravity conditions. 

The cabin of the SpaceShipTwo vehicle VSS Unity — the rocket-powered spaceplane housing Virgin Galactic’s passengers — will be converted into a suitable suborbital science lab to conduct the experiments.

Galactic 01 will be followed by a second commercial spaceflight, ‘Galactic 02,’ in early August 2023, with monthly spaceflights expected thereafter.

Virgin Galactic completed its final test flight in May when it sent a crew of four company employees more than 50 miles above the surface of the Earth. 

The 'Galactic 01' flight will see four passengers board VSS Unity for a 90-minute flight to conduct a series of 13 suborbital science experiments

The ‘Galactic 01’ flight will see four passengers board VSS Unity for a 90-minute flight to conduct a series of 13 suborbital science experiments

The flight will take off from New Mexico tomorrow morning, and will last for approximately 90 minutes

The flight will take off from New Mexico tomorrow morning, and will last for approximately 90 minutes

Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi will also be conducting tests, however these will be in the field of cognitive performance in microgravity and study liquid-solid mixing.

Virgin Galactic has sold about 800 tickets for its space trip over the past decade, with the initial batch going for $200,000 (£156,000) each, but they now cost $450,000 (£350,000) per person.

Virgin Galactic’s launch method is different from SpaceX and Blue Origin, which perform dramatic vertical rocket launches much like NASA.

Virgin Galactic uses a carrier aircraft called White Knight Two with two pilots who take off from a runway and then gain high altitude.

When at just under 10 miles high (50,000 feet), White Knight Two releases its rocket-powered crewed spaceplane VSS Unity, which ignites its rocket motor and soars even higher.

VSS Unity is able to reach the boundary of space as defined by the US Air Force and NASA by going over 50 miles (80.5 km) above sea level.

However, it is unable to go above the Kármán line, the FAI’s defined space boundary of 62.1 miles (100km).

The final of the four crew members is Colin Bennett, an astronaut instructor at Virgin Galactic, who has the all important task – ensuring what the quality of the experience is like travelling aboard the VSS Unity. 

Bennett is also a lead astronaut instructor responsible for training and preparing the passengers. 

Virgin Galactic, founded in 2004, conducted its first successful flight to space in December 2018 with VSS Unity.

The spaceplane, which was manned with two pilots, reached outer space for first time according to the US definition of the space border.

How Virgin tycoon Richard Branson built his multi-billion empire

The Virgin brand took off with Virgin Records in 1972.

The tycoon Sir Richard Branson is the founder and chair of the Virgin Group, which employs over 60,000 people in 35 countries through its 40 plus companies. 

The empire burgeoned in the 1960’s, as a 16-year-old Branson launched his magazine, called Student, which interviewed celebrities and sold almost $8,000 worth of advertising for the first issue. 

Following this, he dropped out of school to promote the magazine and in 1970, launched Virgin Mail Order Records.

He used the profits from his record store chain to found music label Virgin Records in 1972, and he earned his first million dollars in 1973 when Virgin recording artist Mike Oldfield sold over 5 million copies of his record, ‘Tubular Bells.’

In the 1980’s, Branson launched Virgin Book, Virgin Video and Virgin Atlantic, which took off due to its first-class service, free ice cream, video screens and in-flight massages. 

In 1992, Branson reluctantly sold Virgin Records for $1 billion in order to keep Virgin Atlantic afloat during a tumultuous period for the venture – including a climate of fear pulsed on by terrorist attacks. 

Virgin Galactic was launched in September 2004 alongside Burt Rutan, an American aeronautical engineer. Branson’s vision was of accessible space tourism.



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