Liverpool engineering graduate part of Virgin Galactic historic spaceflight

From l to r: Colin Bennett, Beth Moses, Sirisha Bandla and Sir Richrd Branson. Image credit: Virgin Galactic

An Aerospace Engineering graduate was part of the Virgin Galactic Unity 22 team that successfully completed last week’s first ever fully crewed spaceflight.

Colin Bennett, who graduated in 2007 from the University with an MEng in Aerospace Engineering, was one of the crew of six who accompanied Sir Richard Branson on the historic mission to space.

He was the Lead Flight Operations Engineer on VSS Unity, the Virgin Galactic rocket plane, that flew to an altitude of 53.5 miles above New Mexico before returning safely to Earth just over an hour after leaving the ground.

Colin said: “The devoted teaching staff at Liverpool University made engineering come alive for me and helped ignite my passion for flight test, which ultimately led me to my dream job at Virgin Galactic.  I hope that our recent Unity 22 spaceflight mission helps excite the curiosity of the current students and shows that anything is possible if you work hard and never doubt yourself.”

Professor Mark White remembers Colin when he studied aerospace engineering at the University.  He said: “It was fantastic to see one of our graduates be part of this historic mission to space. There are interesting aerospace challenges ahead and is great to see one of our former students at the forefront of this exploration. For our students graduating this week, I look forward to seeing where their careers take them.”

Whilst on their spaceflight, the crew fulfilled a number of test objectives relating to the cabin and customer experience, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research and the effectiveness of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America.

A recording of the livestream can be accessed on Virgin Galactic’s YouTube channel.

Colin, his two Galactic colleagues Beth Moses, Sirisha Bandla, and Sir Richard were presented with commercial astronaut wings after the flight by former space station commander and Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield.

The mission was the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin.

Sir Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic 17 years ago to develop commercial spacecraft and cater to future space tourists.

To find out more about studying aerospace engineering at the University of Liverpool please visit this webpage