While continuing to test its SpaceShipTwo spaceship in preparation to begin commercial passenger operations as soon as next year, Virgin Galactic has also started preparing future astronauts for their flights.
The spaceline kicked off its Astronaut Readiness Program this week in Baltimore at the headquarters of Under Armour, the company creating the firm’s custom-fit spacesuits, with some of the future astronauts slated to fly on some of the earliest commercial flights, Virgin Galactic officials said Friday.
These customers went through a variety of flight preparation activities, and feedback from this week will be used to further develop the astronaut training program, officials said.
‘’Introducing our Astronaut Readiness Program to our first customers marks an exciting point in our journey as we move closer to the start of commercial service. It is an important step in the process to ensure that our customers are prepared and equipped with the knowledge and training that will help ensure that they savor every second of their spaceflight which we hope will go beyond expectations,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said.
Since it first started selling tickets for flights 15 years ago, Virgin Galactic has made a point to involve its future astronauts in the development process, and its Astronaut Readiness Program is no different.
In addition to flight preparation, the program will also include post-flight activities to build a community of future and flown astronauts. This will allow those who have already experienced what company officials call the “profound and transformative qualities” of spaceflight to share their new perspectives and to inspire others.
More than 600 people from 60 countries have signed on for Virgin Galactic’s commercial flights on SpaceShipTwo, company officials said.
During SpaceShipTwo’s second spaceflight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in February, Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses joined pilots David Mackay and Mike Masucci, the first time the spacecraft carried a passenger on board.
This week, Moses and Mackay shared their experience and offered more detailed information on what the future passengers can expect when they go through preparations at the company’s launch site at Spaceport America in New Mexico, as well as the flight itself.
Preparations include health and wellness considerations, and the company’s own medical team consulted with each participant as part of the program.
Under Armour personnel also led sessions on mobility and nutrition for the future passengers.