By taking charge of a “milestone” rocket launch this afternoon in New Mexico, the first Scotsman in space is set to make history for the second time.
One of two pilots onboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity is Dave Mackay, from the Scottish Highlands, who is expected to take off at 8 a.m. MT – roughly 3 p.m. Uh. GMT.
It is planned that Sir Richard Branson’s company will begin space tourism flights in 2021. Among the first 600 paying customers who have signed up so far are Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Before the tourism service starts next year, today’s flight will be the first of three final demonstration flights.
The former Nasa astronaut CJ Sturckow, along with chief test pilot Dave Mackay, will take part in the mission.
They will also wear special suits specially designed to fly into space and back at more than three times the speed of sound on a daily basis.
Mr. Mackay said, “Wearing these spacesuits is a real honor for all of us in the Virgin Galactic pilot corps. The thoughtful design ensures that the suits are not only comfortable and practical, but also tailored for each pilot. You immediately get a sense of the importance of our mission as soon as you step into the suit.”
“I’m very excited to wear my own spacesuit during the first manned spaceflight in New Mexico and then many times in the future as we share the wonder of space with our future astronauts.”
Credit: Galactic Virgin, Twitter
A range of targets are expected to be accomplished by the flight, including the testing of customer cabin components and the evaluation of improved horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during the lift.
As part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, the flight will also carry payloads.
Last year, Mr. Mackay made history when he was at the controls of the Virgin Galactic commercial space fleet’s final test flight, SpaceShipTwo.
The 62-year-old is the first Scotsman ever to fly into space, although that title was awarded to astronaut Brian Binnie in 2004, it is said.
Brian was born in West Lafayette, Indiana in the United States, while his father is Scottish and he himself grew up in Aberdeenshire.
“Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said, “With protection as our primary focus, we remain committed to finalizing our first powered flight in New Mexico. We have reduced the number of people on site as much as possible, in compliance with local authority directives and safety procedures. While there will be no media or guests on site for this occasion, upon completion of the flight, our team will make every effort to capture and share the beautiful photographs with the world. In the coming weeks, we look forward to achieving this major milestone in our test flight program.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “I am grateful to Virgin Galactic for their commitment to safety during this difficult time, as I am to every company in our state.” This is an exciting announcement that reveals in a healthy and fast way that we are back on track. The future of New Mexico at the forefront of aerospace growth is brighter than ever.