Meet Sirisha Bandla, the second Indian-born woman to fly into space with Virgin Galactic
Sirisha Bandla is among the six-member crew of VSS Unity — Virgin Galactic’s suborbital rocket-powered spaceplane — that includes the company’s founder Richard Branson (70).
Indian-born Sirisha Bandla will be the first person from Andhra Pradesh to fly to space. Born in Tenali, Guntur district, and brought up in Houston, Texas, 34-year-old Sirisha is among the six-member crew of VSS Unity — Virgin Galactic’s suborbital rocket-powered spaceplane — that includes the company’s founder Richard Branson (70).
Branson’s company announced on Thursday evening that its next test flight will be on July 11 and that its founder will be among the six people on board — all company employees. The winged rocket ship will soar from New Mexico — the first carrying a full crew.
Sirisha is Vice-President - Government Affairs and Research Operations wing of Virgin Galactic and its sister concern, Virgin Orbit.
“I am so incredibly honoured to be a part of the amazing crew of #Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all,” Sirisha tweeted.
During the space flight — which is the 22nd for VSS Unity and Galactic’s fourth crewed mission — Sirisha will evaluate the research experience with an experiment from the University of Florida, using several handheld fixation tubes. She studied aeronautical engineering at Purdue University and also holds an MBA from George Washington University.
Other crew members of VSS Unity include pilots Dave Mackay and Michale Masucci, who have flown the ship previously, Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, and Lead Operations Engineer Colin Bennet.
The operation will be launched from a port in New Mexico. According to space.com, Unity will be hauled up to an altitude of 50,000 ft by carrier aircraft VMS Eve. At that altitude, Unity will be dropped, and it will be propelled to space by its rocket motor.
Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson is aiming to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days.
Bezos, meanwhile, plans to blast into space from West Texas on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
According to a statement from Galactic, Branson — who turns 71 next week — will join the crew to experience ‘private astronaut experience’ and said in interviews it took them 17 years to get to this stage.
“After 17 years of research, engineering, and innovation, the new commercial space industry is poised to open the universe to humankind and change the world for good,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)
Edited by Suman Singh