Virgin Galactic Welcomes SpaceShipTwo Unity to Spaceport America, New Mexico
Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, has successfully completed another vital step on its path to commercial service, relocating SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, to its commercial headquarters at Spaceport America’s Gateway to Space building.
VSS Unity, attached to the carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, made the journey from Mojave, California, where the Company’s manufacturing facilities are based. The vehicle landed at 15:49 MT, where it was greeted by an enthusiastic group of teammates who will operate the spaceship in New Mexico.
This captive carry flight provided an opportunity for engineers to evaluate VSS Unity for over three hours at high altitude and cold temperatures, a longer period of time than is experienced during missions to space. These environmental evaluations of system performance are difficult to replicate at ground level, making captive carry missions a vital component of VSS Unity’s flight test plan.
The flight also provided a valuable opportunity to conduct pilot training and familiarization, with veteran Italian Air Force Test Pilot Nicola ‘Stick’ Pecile joining Chief Pilot Dave ‘Mac’ Mackay in the cockpit of the spaceship for the first time. Nicola is the fifth pilot to complete a flight in VSS Unity. VMS Eve was piloted by Mike ‘Sooch’ Masucci and Frederick ‘CJ’ Sturckow.
The move of the spaceship to Spaceport America marks a key step in the relocation of Virgin Galactic’s to the state of New Mexico. In May 2019, Virgin Galactic announced that as part of this move, approximately 100 teammates would move to New Mexico from Mojave, California, Spaceport America would become operational and the vehicles would be transferred to the Gateway to Space. Today, nearly all of those team members have relocated, the spaceport is operationally ready, and both VMS Eve and VSS Unity have now arrived. Of Virgin Galactic’s total current New Mexico work force, more than 70 team members have been hired locally, the result of a conscious effort to attract New Mexico-based talent.
“New Mexico is going to be the world’s launchpad for commercial spaceflight,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “Today marks another step closer: We will have a genuine Space Valley in Southern New Mexico, a hotbed of innovation and achievement and space tourism development. I congratulate Virgin Galactic’s workers, George Whitesides and Sir Richard Branson on today’s successful flight – and once again I say to them: Welcome to New Mexico, we’re very glad to have you!”