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West Country astronaut heading to outer space with Richard Branson

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A former Clevedon schoolboy is to travel into space with business magnate Richard Branson – on a test flight for his rocket powered spaceship.

Colin Bennett, 36, will be part of the Virgin Galactic team for the rocket powered test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity on July 11.

The Unity 22 mission will be the 22nd flight test for Virgin Space Ship Unity and Virgin Galactic’s fourth crewed spaceflight.

Read more: Man loves Clevedon so much he has its landmarks tattooed on leg

It will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who will be testing out the private astronaut experience.

For the first time, Virgin Galactic will livestream the test flight for everyone to watch along at home.

Colin – as ‘Astronaut 003’ – is the lead operations engineer at Virgin Galactic and will be responsible for evaluating cabin equipment, procedures and experience during both the boost phase and in the weightless environment.

Colin, who attended Clevedon School between 1996 and 2003, always had a keen interest in design technology, maths and physics and was described as a ‘very focused and determined’ student.

His former physics teacher, who is still teaching physics at Clevedon School, Andy Davis said: “I remember him as a calm, modest and hard working student with a great work ethic.



Astronaught Colin Bennett

“He was one of those students that had quiet drive and resolve and excellent leadership skills.

“It has been amazing to hear about his journey from Clevedon to outer space.”

Colin has kept in touch with the school and is part of the ‘Inspiring Alumni’ the school has on display in the corridors.

And despite a very busy week of final preparations, he has been in touch in the last few days to offer a video conference with students in the coming weeks to talk through his experience and give a unique insight into his role and the flight.

Building on the success of the Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight in May, Unity 22 will focus on testing the cabin and customer experience.

Following this flight, and in line with normal procedures, the team will complete inspections of the vehicles and an extensive data review, which will inform the next steps in the test flight program.

Currently, two additional test flights remain before the Virgin Galactic plans to commence commercial service in 2022.

Clevedon School headteacher Jim Smith added: “Colin is an inspiration to all our students and it shows that with hard work, dedication and the right attitude, anything is possible.

“He is simply a kind and brilliant individual of whom we are very proud.

“We wish all the best for the flight.”

Richard Branson said: “I truly believe that space belongs to all of us.

“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.

” It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality.

“As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”

The livestream will be available to watch on Virgin Galactic.com and will be simulcast on the Virgin Galactic Twitter, YouTube and Facebook channels.

It is expected to begin at 7:00 am MDT / 9:00 am EDT on the day of the flight. Follow Virgin Galactic on Twitter for the latest updates.

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