News Details

Virgin Galactic Announces First Commercial Research Mission

September 2, 2021

“Unity 23” Test Flight Will Mark First Research Customer Mission

Partnership with Italian Air Force Marks First Mission of Its Kind led by European Country

LAS CRUCES, N.M.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin Galactic”), a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, today announced the manifest for the next rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity from Spaceport America, which will be the first commercial, human-tended research mission for the Company.

The “Unity 23” mission will be the 23rd flight for VSS Unity and will carry three paying crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council. The goal of the mission is to evaluate and measure the effects of the transitional phase from gravity to microgravity on the human body. Other payloads on board will study the effect of the microgravity environment on a range of chemical and physical properties. By testing and evaluating physiological and technological responses in sub-orbital flight, the mission aims to produce insights relevant to current and future spaceflight systems and technologies.

The crew will be:

  • Col. Walter Villadei, Italian Air Force. Col. Villadei, a space engineer and cosmonaut, will serve as mission lead, tending to the rack-mounted payloads during the weightless portion of the flight. He will wear a cutting-edge smart suit, incorporating Italian fashion style and technology, to measure his biometric data and physiological responses.
  • Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi, Physician, Italian Air Force. Lt. Col. Landolfi will conduct tests measuring cognitive performance in microgravity. In addition, he will activate syringe payloads from his seat to investigate how certain liquids and solids mix in microgravity.
  • Pantaleone Carlucci, Aerospace Engineer and National Research Council researcher. Mr. Carlucci will wear sensors that examine heart rate, brain function and other human performance metrics in microgravity.
  • Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor, Virgin Galactic. Ms. Moses will serve as cabin lead in space, calling out key mission phases and cabin instructions and overseeing the safe and efficient execution of the flight timeline. She will not interact directly with the Italian experiments.

The pilots for this mission are Michael Masucci and CJ Sturckow flying VSS Unity and Nicola Pecile and Kelly Latimer flying VMS Eve.

The Company is targeting a flight window in late September or early October 2021, pending technical checks and weather. Audiences around the world will be invited to participate virtually in the Unity 23 flight and witness the commercial research mission with the Italian Air Force through a live stream available on

Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Being selected by the Italian Air Force to support their microgravity research is a testament to the unique scientific capabilities of our spaceflight system. We’re proud to be facilitating cooperation between spacefaring nations and industry pioneers to expand human knowledge, and demonstrate the intrinsic value of our offering to government and scientific partners. This flight will be remembered as an important milestone in unlocking the transformative potential of repeatable and reliable access to space for years to come.”

Sirisha Bandla, Head of Virgin Galactic Research and Vice President of Government Affairs, said: “The commercial space industry is providing scientific opportunities that were unthinkable a decade ago. By offering routine access to space, with a flight profile that can be tailored to the payloads on board, we are offering novel prospects for researchers to conduct microgravity science and technology development. We’re proud to be ushering in a new era in human-tended spaceflight research and helping the Italian Air Force build on their 60-year legacy in space innovation.”

Lieutenant General Alberto Rosso, Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force, said: “The Italian Air Force has always placed great importance on the understanding of space and aerospace. Aerospace is the natural operational extension of our institutional duty. Strength in this domain is an asset for the Country and is critical to its protection and safety, which is why the Air Force places great emphasis on further deepening its knowledge. With this mission, the Italian Air Force aims to start exploring potential implementations for this kind of vehicle - both civilian and military - and to further opportunities for technological, scientific and industrial growth. We are thrilled to entrust this important mission to a flight pioneer such as Virgin Galactic.”

You can download all press materials including images and broll from the Virgin Galactic Press Assets

About Virgin Galactic Holdings

Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. is a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, pioneering human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers with its advanced air and space vehicles. It is developing a spaceflight system designed to connect the world to the wonder and awe created by space travel and to offer customers a transformative experience. You can find more information at

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of federal securities laws with respect to Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (the "Company"), including statements regarding the Company’s spaceflight systems, markets and expected flight schedule. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by words such as “believe,” “project,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “intend,” “strategy,” “future,” “opportunity,” “plan,” “may,” “should,” “will,” “would,” and similar expressions. Forward-looking statements are predictions, projections and other statements about future events that are based on current expectations and assumptions and, as a result, are subject to risks and uncertainties. Many factors could cause actual future events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements in this press release, including but not limited to the factors, risks and uncertainties included in Amendment No. 2 to our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, as such factors may be updated from time to time in our other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"), accessible on the SEC’s website at and the Investor Relations section of our website at These filings identify and address other important risks and uncertainties that could cause the Company’s actual events and results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made. Readers are cautioned not to put undue reliance on forward-looking statements, and, except as required by law, the Company assumes no obligation and does not intend to update or revise these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

For media inquiries:
Aleanna Crane - Vice President Communications
+1 575 800 4422

For Investor Relations inquiries:
Seth Zaslow - Vice President Investor Relations
+1 714 732 4780

Source: Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc.