Scaled Composites has completed the first series of tests on the rocket motor for the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, clearing a major milestone toward testing of the suborbital tourism vehicle, Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn said on Thursday.
â€œWeâ€™re feeling very good about it at the moment,â€ Whitehorn told attendees at the International Space Development Conference being held outside of Orlando. . Scaled Composites is working with Sierra Nevada Corporation to conduct the engine tests.
Whitehorn also said that SpaceShipTwo will be completed by the end of the year and attached to its WhiteKnightTwo mothership for tests. The plan would be to do an unpowered glide test with the suborbital craft.
Tests of WhiteKnightTwo are progressing nicely, Whitehorn added. On June 19, pilots will take the plane on a long-distance roundtrip flight from Mojave, California to New Mexico to do a flyover during the groundbreaking ceremonies for Spaceport America.
The $225 million desert spaceport will be home base for Virgin Galactic, which will offer suborbital tourism. New Mexico has excellent weather all year round, Virgin also hopes to fly out of other American states as well as Sweden, Scotland, the United Arab Emirates.
Whitehorn said SpaceShipTwo might fly out of Florida during the winter months. He said NASA has been â€œincredibly helpfulâ€ in assisting the company, even offering to allow it to fly out of Cape Canaveral.
The company is aiming to capture business in multiple markets: space tourism, small satellite launches, microgravity and upper atmospheric research, and the testing and certification of space technologies.