After the long-awaited success of its flight to the edge of space with owner Richard Branson on board, Virgin Galactic is pressing ahead with commercialisation.

It’s just announced its first manned commercial research mission for SpaceShip Two Unity, codenamed Unity 23. The mission will carry three paying crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council, with the goal of evaluating and measuring the effects of the transitional phase from gravity to microgravity on the human body.

Other payloads on board will be used to study the effect of the microgravity environment on a range of chemical and physical properties. The crew will wear smart suits to measure their biometric data, and sensors examining heart rate, brain function and other metrics. The launch is slated for late September or early October 2021.

“Being selected by the Italian Air Force to support their microgravity research is a testament to the unique scientific capabilities of our spaceflight system,” said Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic. “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.”

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