Virgin Galactic’s first commercial spacecraft will launch on 29 June onboard the “Galactic 01” shuttle. The company has now announced the final crew of this mission, called “Virtue 1”.
This first flight will not carry tourists, but scientists. Three crew members from the Italian Air Force and the Italian National Research Council, accompanied by one pilot, will be carrying out research in microgravity. The aim of Virtue 1 is to “conduct 13 human-tended and autonomous experiments which examine biomedicine thermos-fluid dynamics and the development of innovative and sustainable materials in microgravity conditions”.
This historic mission is Virgin Galactic’s first commercial spaceflight and represents a new era in government funded commercial human-tended research missions.Virgin Galactic
The second flight will take place in August and will take three private astronauts to outer space. Subsequent flights will take off on a monthly basis; the general public will be able to sign up for any of those missions. According to Virgin Galactic, 800 customers have already purchased their tickets for between $200,000 and $450,000.
1. Walter Villadei
Col. Walter Villadei is the Virtue 1 mission commander.
Villadei started his professional astronaut training at NASA through Axiom Space in 2021 and in 2022 qualified as the Ax-2 mission backup pilot. On this mission, he will be tending to the rack-mounted payloads and wearing a state-of-the-art smart suit to measure his biometric data and physiological responses. He is in charge of the research execution and this spaceflight is part of his astronaut training for a future orbital space mission to the ISS.
2. Pantaleone Carlucci
Lt. Col. Pantaleone Carlucci will serve as flight engineer and payload specialist.
Carlucci is an energy engineer and pilot that has worked at the CNR for over 8 years in the fields of engineering of scientific instrumentation on aircraft platforms, with a focus on the implementation of payloads. Aboard Galactic 01, he will be wearing multiple sensors that examine heart rate, brain function and other human performance metrics during spaceflight and in microgravity.
3. Angelo Landolfi
Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi will be conducting tests on ‘Galactic 01’ to measure cognitive performance in microgravity and to investigate how certain liquids and solids mix in microgravity.
Trained as a crew surgeon as part of the Cosmonaut training program and trained flight test surgeon, Landolfi holds master’s degrees in public health and preventative medicine and in international military strategic studies, as well as a Ph.D. in legal medicine and forensic science.
4. Colin Bennett
Colin Bennet is the lead astronaut instructor for Virtue 1.
Bennet joined Virgin Galactic in 2015 and is currently an Astronaut Instructor. On this mission, he will be carrying out all training and preparation for the Italian Air Force mission and will fly with the crew to assess the research flight experience during the mission.