A former Royal Air Force Harrier pilot has become the UK’s first commercial astronaut when he flew into space aboard the Virgin Space Ship Unity.
Dave MacKay (61), is Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot, and also a former RAF Harrier pilot. He flew into space on the 22 February, when Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity makes its second successful flight into space above California. Dave has therefore become the became the 569th human in space and the first Scottish-born astronaut.
Before becoming an astronaut, Dave joined the RAF in 1979 and spent 16 years in the Service, flying the Harriers. He was also a test pilot at Boscombe Down and was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1992. On leaving the RAF he joined Virgin Atlantic in 1995 as a commercial pilot and then moved to Virgin Galactic in 2009.
“I am incredibly proud of my crew and the amazing teams at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company for providing a vehicle and an operation which means we can fly confidently and safely. For the three of us today this was the fulfilment of lifelong ambitions.”
Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot
The second successful flight of the VSS Unity saw Dave and his co-pilot Michael “Sooch” Masucci and Beth Moses, Virgin’s Chief Astronaut Instructor fly into space. Powered by a hybrid rocket motor, the Unity was propelled to an apogee of 295,007ft at Mach 3.04. The crew experienced several minutes of weightlessness in space and conducted important evaluation tests.
Following re-entry and a glide back home, Dave and his crew mates were met after landing by Virgin staff and a kilted piper.