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Virgin Galactic live updates: Company has launched its first fully commercial spaceflight

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(NEW YORK) — Virgin Galactic is launching its first fully commercial flight of the SpaceShipTwo space plane, the company announced.

The ship will carry four people and launch around 11:00 a.m. ET, which will be available to watch via livestream. The trip is expected to last about 90 minutes.

The mission, known as Galactic 01, will see the team conduct 13 experiments examining thermo-fluid dynamics and the development of sustainable materials in microgravity conditions.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jun 29, 11:56 AM EDT
Breaking down the Galactic 01 flight

The group took off on VSSUnity, a suborbital rocket-powered crewed spaceplane, attached to a bigger “mothership” aircraft called VMS Eve.

VMS Eve launched similar to a commercial airplane and, when it reached more than 40,000 feet, it released VSS Unity, firing its rocket engine.

VSS Unity then reached its intended altitude of 50 miles above Earth’s surface, which is considered the edge of outer space. After spending a few minutes in zero-gravity, it began free-falling and heading back to the spaceport in New Mexico for landing.

Jun 29, 11:26 AM EDT
Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane has taken off

Virgin Galactic announced its spaceplane, VSS Unity, has taken off from the spaceport in New Mexico and is currently climbing to its altitude goal, 50 miles above Earth.

“VSS Unity is currently climbing to release altitude. Our #Galactic01 crew from the @ItalianAirForce & @CNRsocial_, are preparing to conduct 13 scientific research experiments throughout the stages of flight,” the company tweeted.

Jun 29, 10:48 AM EDT
These are some of the experiments the Galactic 01 crew will conduct

During the Galactic 01 mission, the four-person crew are conducting 13 experiments, the company said.

Some will be related to space such as measuring cosmic radiation in the mesosphere, between 30 and 50 miles above Earth, an altitude where limited data has been collected.

Others involve thermo-fluid dynamics including whether certain liquids transform into gases at high altitudes and others will develop specific foams that are very hard to produce on Earth.

The last will be related to human vitals and include examining how circadian rhythms are affected by microgravity, studying any changes in the cells that line blood vessels and comparing heart and skill MRIs before and after the flight.

Jun 29, 9:56 AM EDT
Meet the crew aboard Galactic 01

Galactic 01 will be carrying four passengers when it takes its suborbital flight, about 50 miles above Earth.

Among them are two members of the Italian Ari Force, Col. Walter Villadei, the mission commander, and Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi, a physician.

Villadei will be wearing a smart suit to measure his biometric data and physiological responses and Landolfi will measure cognitive performance in microgravity as well as studing how certain liquids and solids mix in microgravity, the company said.

Pantaleone Carlucci, an engineer with the National Research Council of Italy, will also be on board to examine the crew members’ heart rates, brain functions and other health vitals during spaceflight.

Lastly is Colin Bennett, an astronaut instructor with Virgin Galactic, to assess the experience during the mission. Bennett was a passenger onboard the company’s 2021 flight that included Branson.

Jun 29, 9:20 AM EDT
What is Virgin Galactic?

Virgin Galactic is a spaceflight company founded by British businessman Richard Branson.

The company says its goal is to take paying customers to the edge of the space, in a similar vein to Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin.

In 2021, Virgin Galactic received approval from the U.S. government to take customers on spaceflights.

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