Branson: Virgin Spaceflights Expected Soon
Virgin Galactic is about three months away from launching into space, founder Richard Branson said at a business forum in Finland recently. He added that he expects to fly into space about three months after that. The company has said it expects to start launching flights for paying tourists by the end of next year. The carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, and the passenger vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, are based at Mojave, where they are undergoing flight tests. At a recent spaceflight symposium in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic Vice President Mike Moses said crews are putting final touches on the propulsion system and “pretty soon” will be evaluating supersonic boost. The company, which will be based at SpacePort America in New Mexico, is selling seats into space for about $250,000.
When asked about Branson’s timeline, Moses told the Las Cruces Sun-News: “Richard always poses a challenge, he likes to push us pretty hard. Sometimes I wish he wouldn’t talk so much. We hope to be in space by the end of this year. We’ll take our time with it. We’re going to fly when we are ready.” Crews are testing SpaceShipTwo, christened Unity, at subsonic speeds, Moses said, evaluating the feathering system used on re-entry and examining performance on approach and landing. “Unity has been performing very well, sometimes better than models predicted,” Moses said. “Things are right on track where they need to be.” Dan Hicks, CEO of Spaceport America, told the Sun-News the spaceport is ready to support Virgin Galactic’s presence. Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant for the spaceport and has already moved some staff there.