SpaceShipTwo Powered Flights Set for 2013

Workers install SpaceShipTwo’s nitrous oxide tank. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

In a story on Saturday, Allison Gatlin of the Antelope Valley Press quotes Scaled Composites Executive Vice President Kevin Mickey as saying that powered flights of SpaceShipTwo will begin next year. Virgin Galactic officials have said they hoped to begin powered flights by the end of this year.

The powered flights will be preceded by un-powered glide tests of SpaceShipTwo that will begin later this year. These will be the first flights of the eight-person space plane after it has been fully fitted with its hybrid propulsion system.

Next year should be a busy one at the Mojave Air and Space Port where SpaceShipTwo is being tested. XCOR is set to make the first powered flights of its two-person Lynx space plane during the first quarter of 2013.

  • Will SpaceX fly human passengers to orbit before Virgin Galactic flies human passengers to sub-orbit?

  • mr. mark

    Anom,That is not as crazy as it sounds. SpaceX could fly people to orbit as soon as late 2014. With many tests planned over the next year, Virgin Galactic’s timeline for passenger flights may move even farther to the right. Late 2014 for starting SS2 suborbital passenger service is not out of the question which is just about the time Spacex plans the first human flights to orbit.

  • I dunno. Dragon seems to be flying fairly well. But, it’s the rocket that’s the most challenging part of that at this point. It’s the thing that has to go from 0 to 17,000 mph in nine minutes. And the abort system has to work if it fails or people die.

    Also, keep in mind that SpaceX has been running significantly behind schedule on COTS and its commercial satellite launches. There’s been a significant gap between what SpaceX says and when it delivers it. That’s true of everyone, I’m not picking on them.

    Speaking of running behind schedule. When Virgin Galactic will fly commercially ….I have no idea. The plan was to begin powered flights this year and move rapidly to commercial ones by the end of 2013. That always seemed a bit aggressive to me. A slip of powered flights into early next delays that further. Branson’s latest estimate (12 to 18 months) is similar to what he’s been saying for years now. I’ve never been clear as to whether these estimates are hopeful wishes, exhortations to everyone to get moving, or were based on genuine estimates that turned out to be optimistic.

    It comes down to whether they’ve got the engine figured out and whether it works the way they expect in the upcoming flights. We’ll see.