UF plant experiment included on first science mission of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

June 3, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- NASA and Virgin Galactic today announced 12 experiments to be launched on the first scientific mission of Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo, and a University of Florida project is among them.

“The UF science on the Virgin Galactic flight involves technologies developed to visualize biological adaptation to the first few minutes of spaceflight,” said Rob Ferl, principal investigator for the experiment and a professor of horticultural sciences. “The VG flights offer, for the first time, the ability to actively monitor experiments during launch and the initial entry into space. This ability to study biology that experiences launch and then microgravity is, perhaps surprisingly, a radical new development.

“Previously all experiments had to wait until the spaceship was in orbit before the experiment could be monitored. SS2 is, however, expressly designed to experience and celebrate those first few minutes of spaceflight. What we are flying in SS2 is a UF-developed technology for visualizing changes in gene activity that accompany those first few minutes in space, so as to study what happened to terrestrial organisms as they leave the surface of the Earth.”

A launch date for SpaceShipTwo, also known as SS2, has not been scheduled but is expected this fall.

Lead scientists on the UF project are:

Rob Ferl, professor of horticultural sciences, UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 352-273-8029 or 352-273-4822


Anna-Lisa Paul, research associate professor of horticultural sciences, UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 352-273-4855


For more information, go to http://www.virgingalactic.com/news/item/virgin-galactic-signs-deal-with-nasa-for-research-missions-on-spaceshiptwo/.