Virgin Galactic flight test director Mark Stucky, who led first spaceflight, departs from company

Mark “Forger” Stucky, after piloting the company’s first successful spaceflight on December 13, 2018.
Virgin Galactic

Mark “Forger” Stucky, Virgin Galactic‘s flight test director and pilot, is no longer with the space tourism company.

“I am now a former Director of Flight Test and former SpaceShipTwo pilot,” Stucky wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

He added in a comment on LinkedIn that he did not leave the space tourism company “on my own timeline.”

Virgin Galactic confirmed to CNBC that Stucky “is no longer employed,” but did not explain further.

“We thank him for his 12 years of service on the flight test program,” a Virgin Galactic spokesperson said in a statement.

Stucky helped develop Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo system, serving first as the engineering test pilot for Scaled Composites — which built the spacecraft for Virgin Galactic — before spending the last six years as Virgin Galactic’s lead test pilot and director of flight testing.

Virgin Galactic’s First Spaceflight on Dec. 13, 2018
Source: Virgin Galactic

He piloted Virgin Galactic’s first test flight that reached space, launched Dec. 13, 2018. The Federal Aviation Administration awarded Stucky – the 568th person to fly to space – the “Commercial Astronaut Wings,” an honor the U.S. has given to those who cross the 80-kilometer boundary that the government recognizes as space.

In addition to leading Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflight test, Stucky as also the pilot commanding the first glide flight and first rocket-powered flight of SpaceShipTwo spacecraft VSS Unity.

Stucky has flown more than 170 different types of aircraft throughout his career, which also included the U.S. Marines, NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

Virgin Galactic has seven pilots on staff to fly VSS Unity and the carrier aircraft VMS Eve. The company most recently added two pilots to that corps in October 2020, when it hired Royal Canadian Air Force pilot Jameel Janjua and U.S Marine Corps pilot Patrick Moran.

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