Virgin Galactic plans to launch its sixth commercial spaceflight today (Jan. 26).
That mission, called Galactic 06, will send four private passengers to suborbital space and back. It’s scheduled to lift off from Spaceport America in New Mexico today during a window that opens at noon EST (1700 GMT; 10 a.m. local New Mexico time).
It does not appear that we’ll be able to watch the action; Virgin Galactic hasn’t mentioned running a webcast. The company will likely post updates on X (formerly known as Twitter) during the flight, as it has done on recent missions.
Related: Virgin Galactic launches researchers to suborbital space on 5th commercial flight (video)
As of Thursday afternoon (Jan. 25), Virgin Galactic had not revealed the identities of the Galactic 06 passengers, giving only their home nations and/or states. One is from Texas, one is from California, one is an Austrian and the other hails from Nevada and Ukraine, according to the company.
That fourth passenger will be the first Ukrainian woman to reach space, Virgin Galactic representatives said in an emailed statement.
The Galactic 06 crew will ride aboard the VSS Unity space plane, which will lift off from Spaceport America beneath the wings of a carrier craft called VMS Eve. Eve will drop Unity at an altitude of about 45,000 feet (13,700 meters), at which point the space plane will ignite its rocket motor and head up to suborbital space.
Unity’s passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and get to see their home planet against the blackness of space before coming down to Earth for a runway landing at Spaceport America.
Tickets to ride the six-passenger Unity currently cost $400,000.
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Galactic 06 will be Virgin’s first mission of the year, and one of the final flights for Unity, if all goes according to plan. The company has said that it will soon retire the space plane, which has conducted all Virgin spaceflights to date, to focus on its forthcoming “Delta class” vehicle.
Each Delta plane will be able to fly up to twice per week, according to Virgin representatives. The first Delta vehicle is on track to start test flights in 2025, and the company wants it to begin commercial operations the following year.
Virgin Galactic has a competitor in the suborbital space tourism industry — Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company, which takes people and payloads aloft with a rocket-capsule combo called New Shepard.
New Shepard recently returned to flight after suffering a failure during an uncrewed research mission in September 2022. The vehicle hasn’t carried people since August 2022.