Space

Stellar Success: Former RAF Harrier Pilot Becomes UK's First Commercial Astronaut

Sixty-one-year-old Dave MacKay previously flew Harriers for the RAF.

Dave MacKay has become the became the 569th human in space and the first Scottish-born astronaut (Picture: Virgin Galactic).

A former Royal Air Force Harrier pilot has become the UK’s first commercial astronaut.

Sixty-one-year-old Dave MacKay is Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot, and also a former RAF Harrier pilot.

He flew into space on February 22, when VSS Unity makes its second successful flight into space above California. 

The crew experienced several minutes of weightlessness in space and conducted important evaluation tests (Picture: Virgin Galactic).

Before his career in space, Dave joined the RAF in 1979 and spent 16 years in the service flying Harriers. 

He was also a test pilot at Boscombe Down and was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1992. 

On leaving the RAF, he joined Virgin Atlantic in 1995 as a commercial pilot and then moved to his current company in 2009.

Dave said: “I am incredibly proud of my crew and the amazing teams at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company for providing a vehicle and an operation which means we can fly confidently and safely.

"For the three of us today this was the fulfilment of lifelong ambitions."

VSS Unity made its second successful flight into space above California on February 22 (Picture: Virgin Galactic).

The second successful flight of the VSS Unity saw Dave and his co-pilot Michael “Sooch” Masucci and Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor fly into space. 

Powered by a hybrid rocket motor, the Unity was propelled to an apogee of 295,007 feet at Mach 3.04. 

The crew experienced several minutes of weightlessness in space and conducted important evaluation tests.

Staff and a kilted piper met Dave and his crew mates upon re-entry and the glide back home.

(Picture: Virgin Galactic).