Virgin Galactic confirms Kellie Gerardi for 2022 research spaceflight
Virgin Galactic has been contracted to fly Kellie Gerardi, a bioastronautics researcher for the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS), on a dedicated research flight aboard the VSS Unity suborbital spacecraft in 2022.
The contract marks the world’s first industry-sponsored, human-tended research spaceflight on a commercial space vehicle.
Gerardi also becomes the first female payload specialist contracted to fly on a commercial spacecraft.
A citizen scientist and STEM influencer with a large Instagram and TikTok following, Gerardi will conduct experiments and test new healthcare technologies while she experiences microgravity for several minutes aboard the reusable VSS Unity.
Virgin Galactic said in a statement it and IIAS teams will collaborate with academic and US government partners to carefully plan Gerardi’s flight activities to maximise the science and technology advancements gained from her research experiments from her upcoming several minutes of weightlessness on the VSS Unity.
Gerardi’s research experiments on the VSS Unity will include bio-monitoring instrumentation, including the Astroskin Bio-Monitor wearable sensors system developed by Canadian company Carré Technologies (Hexoskin) with the support of the Canadian Space Agency and is designed to measure the biological effects of launch, weightlessness, re-entry, and landing on spaceflight participants.
A second piece of research includes a free-floating fluid configuration experiment, whose data can be used to help inform novel technologies ranging from fluid-based accelerometer system to humidifiers for spacecraft life support systems, and new syringe designs for administering medication in space.
Gerardi has previously flown parabolic research campaigns to evaluate commercial spacesuits and conduct research in microgravity for the National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Space Agency.
Virgin Galactic will provide bespoke training and preparation so that the IIAS researcher is fully equipped to carry out her job on the flight and provide on-site pre-flight support for each of the payload experiments.
The IIAS is a citizen-science, research, and education institute specialising in operational space science, geoscience, flight test engineering, aeronomy, and bioastronautics.
She currently lives in Jupiter, Florida, with her husband Steven and their daughter Delta V.