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Success of Virgin Galactic 01: First Italian Suborbital Flight in History

L’equipaggio del volo suborbitale Virgin Galactic 01 con la bandiera italiana

Washington, DC (June 29, 2023) – A successful completion of the Galactic 01 mission, the first commercial suborbital flight into space by Virgin Galactic. On board, an all-Italian crew, together with the American astronaut Colin Bennett, the officers Walter Villadei and Angelo Landolfi of the Italian Air Force, and the researcher Pantaleone Carlucci of the Italian National Research Council (CNR), the two entities that commissioned the flight on the suborbital spacecraft VSS Unity, Virgin’s second SpaceShipTwo model. Italian-American Michael Masucci and Italian pilot Nicola Pecile were at the controls of the spacecraft.

“A milestone for Virgin Galactic and a great tricolored success for a flight that boasts several records: It is the first Italian suborbital flight in history, it is the first suborbital research flight in the world, and the first commissioned by foreign institutions to a U.S. company.” This is what the Ambassador of Italy to the United States, Mariangela Zappia, commented, who followed the launch from Washington, noting how “our Air Force and the CNR, which this year celebrate their 100th anniversary, are a pride for our country and continue to make history.” “The Embassy is proud to have promoted this flight, with the Foreign Ministry’s support, by first creating contacts with the private American space company, and then hosting in 2019 the signing of the agreement that has materialized today,” she remarked before calling the Italian crew to congratulate them on their historic mission.

Through its Space Attaché, based in the Embassy’s economic and scientific office, the diplomatic post promotes numerous partnerships both at the institutional level, starting with relations with the White House’s National Space Council and between ASI and NASA, and between the Italian private sector, which exudes solutions of technological excellence throughout the entire industrial supply chain, and the American one, which is at the forefront of the space economy.

Aboard Galactic 01, considered the first fully commercial mission of British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s company, the three Italians conducted 13 experiments in the fields of biomedicine, thermo-fluid dynamics, and the development of innovative and sustainable materials in microgravity conditions. The mission also opens new collaboration scenarios between Italy and Virgin Galactic for the development of services and technologies in Italy.

During the flight, the VSS Unity cabin was transformed into a suborbital scientific laboratory to provide the best possible environment to conduct the scheduled experiments and to allow the crew to interact with the instruments on board.