“Over the next few months we’re integrating parts and pieces of the hybrid rocket motor into the SpaceShipTwo airframe, completing ground testing of the rocket motor, and then [will] try and start powered flight over the summer,” Whitesides told SPACE.com. Those rocket-powered flights, he said, will continue for some period of time.
Whitesides said it looks possible “to get up to space altitude by the end of the year, if all goes well.” The next major follow-on steps, he said, involve obtaining a commercial operating license from the Federal Aviation Administration and moving operations from California to Spaceport America in New Mexico.
“We hope to get to space this year and our hope is to be able to start commercial operations from Spaceport America in 2013,” Whitesides said….
Now under way is construction of the next WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo, taking place at The Spaceship Company (TSC) in Mojave, Calif. Eventually, Virgin officials envision a whole fleet of these systems to run frequent tourist joyrides to space.
“They have already started construction of the second vehicle pair,” Whitesides observed.
Read the full story.