Forbes has an interview with Steve Isakowitz, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Galactic. The highlights:
Test Flight and Commercial Plans:
“All plumbing and tanks are now installed in SS2. The next steps include cold-flow glide flight and the first powered flights. Burn duration will gradually increase on the way to our first space test flight toward the end of 2013. We will then need to complete the FAA licensing process, conduct the last portion of the test flight program, and then be ready for commercial spaceflight.”
Rent Payments on Spaceport America:
“Virgin Galactic has agreed to start paying rent as a gesture of good faith and in recognition of the near completion of the spaceport terminal. We have been working closely and diligently with New Mexico Spaceport Authority over a number of months to solve the last remaining issues and complete the pre-agreed work, and we expect it to be resolved very soon. We look forward to the facility being fully completed soon and to operating from Spaceport America in the not too distant future.”
New Mexico officials say the company is legally obligated under the lease to begin paying rent as of Jan. 15 due to the facilities at Spaceport America reaching a base building complete milestone in mid-November.
Virgin says that the state of completion is not sufficient to trigger the rent obligations. The company is paying the rent under protest, and it has given New Mexico until March 31 to complete all necessary work or it “may either stop paying rent, pay reduced rent or give notice to terminate” the lease.