WASHINGTON — The two pilots who flew SpaceShipTwo to the edge of space in December received commercial astronaut wings last week, joining an elite group that won’t necessarily become much larger even with the anticipated growth of commercial spaceflight.
In a Feb. 7 ceremony at the headquarters of the Department of Transportation here, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao formally awarded commercial astronaut wings to Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “CJ” Sturckow, the Virgin Galactic plots who flew the SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane to an altitude of nearly 83 kilometers Dec. 13.
“Receiving commercial astronaut wings is an honor for me as it is acknowledgment of a personal achievement,” Stuck said in a company statement, thanking the employees of Virgin Galactic and its subsidiary The Spaceship Company, as well as Scaled Composites, which designed the vehicle. “And these wings are really dedicated to them.”
The Federal Aviation Administration, like the U.S. Air Force and NASA, awards astronaut wings to astronauts who fly above an altitude of 50 miles, or approximately 80 kilometers. This is below the 100-kilometer altitude of the Karman Line, which is commonly used as a standard, although not official, boundary of space. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world ...