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Retired NASA Astronaut Embraces Commercial Spaceflight Role

Frederick  ”C. J.”  Sturckow, a four time space shuttle commander and pilot, has become the first from NASA’s astronaut corps to join Virgin Galactic as a test pilot for SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft operations, the emerging commercial suborbital passenger launch service announced Tuesday.

Rick "C. J." Sturckow, commander of space shuttle Discovery in 2009. Photo Credit/NASA Photo

Sturckow and Michael “Sooch” Masucci, a former U.S. Air Force test and commercial pilot, join the Mojave, Calif., based enterprise as it transitions through a series of powered flight test milestones to passenger service.

Sturckow, 51, retired from NASA as deputy chief astronaut in March. During nearly 19 years in the astronaut corps, the retired Marine Corps colonel and test pilot commanded or piloted International Space Station assembly and re-supply missions in 1998, 2001, 2007 and 2009.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Virgin Galactic team that is revolutionizing access to space, making this opportunity a possibility for all.” Sturckow said in a statement that accompanied the announcement.

Virgin Galactic’s latest pilot hires will report to David Mackay, Virgin Galactic chief pilot, and vice president of operations Mike Moses, a retired NASA executive and shuttle mission management team chairman.

In Mojave,Calif., the two military pilots will conduct flight training and testing with the  WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo air and spacecraft.

Like Struckow, Masucci is a graduate of the U. S. Air Force Test Pilot School. He went on to serve as a U-2 combat pilot as well as an F-16 and T-38 instructor. He moves to Virgin Galactic from XOJET, Inc., a private airline company where he was a Citation captain and check airman.

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