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Sirisha Bandla’s space odyssey may give scope for ‘private astronaut experience’

Sirisha Bandla is vice-president, government affairs and research operations wing of Virgin Galactic and its sister concern, Virgin Orbit.

Published: 03rd July 2021 07:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd July 2021 01:54 PM   |  A+A-

space

According to space.com, Unity will be hauled up to an altitude of 50,000 ft by VMS Eve, the carrier aircraft. (Representational Photo)

Express News Service

GUNTUR: Come July 11, Sirisha Bandla will be the first person from Andhra Pradesh and second India-born woman to fly to space. The 34-year-old, who was born in Tenali of Guntur district, and brought up in Houston, Texas of the USA is among the six-member crew of VSS Unity -- Virgin Galactic’s suborbital rocket-powered space plane -- that includes the company’s founder Richard Branson (70).

She is vice-president, government affairs and research operations wing of Virgin Galactic and its sister concern, Virgin Orbit. “I’ve always seen her zeal to achieve something big and finally, she is going to fulfil her dream. I’m sure she will succeed in this mission and make the whole country proud,” Sirisha’s grandfather Bandla Ragaiah, an agricultural scientist and a resident of Janapdu village in Piduguralla, Guntur district, said.

The proud granddad recalled Sirisha had always been active and fearless. Sirisha was born in 1987 in Tenali and migrated to the US along with her parents when she was 5. Her father Dr Bandla Muralidhar is also a scientist and a member of Senior Executive Services, United States Government. Her mother is Bandla Anuradha. Sirisha has always been enamoured of space and wanted to be a part of the space industry.

Her favourite pastime is playing cello and she was part of the debating team at her high school and loved mathematics, which shaped her character and career. During the space flight, which is the 22nd for VSS Unity and Galactic’s fourth crewed mission, Sirisha will evaluate research experience with an experiment from the University of Florida, using a number of handheld fixation tubes. She studied aeronautical engineering at Purdue University and also holds an MBA from George Washington University.

Sirisha rose through the ranks at Virgin Galactic

After graduation, Sirisha worked in the space policy department of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), an industrial association of spaceflight companies. In 2015, she joined Virgin Galactic as a member of government affairs and research operations and was promoted as vice-president subsequently. Richard Branson on Thursday announced he will be joining the crew of his next spaceflight with Virgin Galactic, going one up on fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos. Amazon founder Bezos is expected to join the crew of his Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft’s first flight on July 20.

The other crew members of VSS Unity are pilots Dave Mackay and Michale Masucci, who have flown the ship previously, Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses and lead operations engineer Colin Bennet. The operat ion will be launched from a port in New Mexico. According to space. com, Unity will be hauled up to an altitude of 50,000 ft by VMS Eve, the carrier aircraft. At that altitude, Unity will be dropped and it will be propelled to space by its rocket motor.

According to a statement from Galactic, Branson, who turns 71 next week, will join the crew to experience ‘private astronaut experience’ and he himself said in interviews it took them 17 years to get to this stage. “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,” he said.



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