Virgin Galactic Getting Closer to Powered Flight Tests

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides spoke at the 20th Mars Society Convention last week where he gave an update on his company’s effort to reach space.

Whitesides said the company has “a very small number” of glide tests remaining for SpaceShipTwo Unity before the vehicle begins powered flights. He did not give a timeline for when Virgin Galactic would light the motor in flight.

Unity has conducted six glide flights since last December. The most recent one was on Aug. 4.

Whitesides showed a video of hot fire of the spacecraft’s hybrid engine. He said engineers had completed testing on the engine, which he called the most advanced hybrid in the world.

Two additional SpaceShipTwo vehicles are under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port, he added. The cabin pieces of one of them were recently bonded together. The new vehicles will be ready for testing a year or two, Whitesides said.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Time out! Let’s re-examine the ENTIRE subject of space tourism from another perspective! And let’s not focus on VG alone, nor on BO, or on Space Adventures, Inc., but let’s focus all those wealthy people around the world who want/wanted to go to space on any space vehicle; whoever might succeed in providing a space transport service for them. BUT…there’s a couple of serious problems emerging that have to do with SUPPLY OF MONEY, not engineering, nor safety, nor physics. I’m sure you are aware, Doug, that many millionaires have lost or will be losing houses and property due to these two-three punch hurricanes. So they will not be spending 1/4-1/2 million dollars on a ticket to the dark skies in the near future. WORSE! The entire US economy is a dangerous mirage,
    where the stock market is over-inflating like a balloon…and when you over-inflate a balloon it will soon BURST!!!…What will that do to your stock market portfolio, if you have one, Mr Messier?
    And when the stock market bursts, will all those millionaires/billionaires care about space tourism
    after losing billions/trillions of dollars worldwide? WHEN that happens, say goodbye to VG, BO, and Space Adventures; they will become a passing historical footnote…And Spaceport, NM will become a desolate relic like those of the 19th century ghost towns.
    A footnote: Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, have just betrayed you, Doug, by suddenly getting cozy with President Trump over the issues of debt ceiling, budgets, etc. I’m assuming you are of the hippy generation from the 60’s, Doug, and were looking forward to retirement…Those three have just conspired to endanger your retirement savings. Welcome to the new world order.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The folks rich enough to buy tickets for space flights are too rich to be generally hurt by an economic bubble bursting or a hurricane. It’s the folks in the middle and low income range that get hurt. So don’t expect either event to impact the space tourism market significantly.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Virgin Galactic Getting Closer to Powered Flight Tests…Again

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    “He said engineers had completed testing on the engine, which he called the most advanced hybrid in the world.”

    They must have hired the guys who lit the tire fires in Mogadishu, they are most familiar with the propellant.

  • therealdmt

    Back to the Future!

  • Rob Frize

    Much rant!

  • windbourne

    VG SS2 and snc’s dream chaser are continuing. While I know that more than a few of you want both to fail, this is good.
    Just wonder why we are not seeing BO launching and testing .

  • windbourne

    That is an appropriate posting for you.

  • windbourne

    Lol. That debt ceiling is nothing and should go away.
    We need a weak balanced budget amendment.

    As to all of this disaster and needs for our nation, the gop have been putting us behind the eight ball for a long time. I have been writing my critters recently suggesting that we raise diesel /gas tax by .01/gal each month for 48 or even 96 months. Nice and slow raise will not harm economy.
    In addition, give gas portion to the state in which collected. And finally, both state and federal can only use this for infrastructure.

    Issue solved.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Because they are upgrading and revising based on the first series of tests, just as you are suppose to do if you run a proper test flight program. But you will see them fly again soon, very soon.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Is the video he showed at the conference online anymore? The SpaceNews article said that they fired it from kind of a model of SS2, which I’d like to see.

  • Lee

    While I hope they succeed, based on what I’ve seen so far, I doubt they will. I stand by my comment made after the last accident. I predict the new SS2 will, at some point in their testing program, become another smoking hole in the ground (hopefully this time without any deaths), and that the program will likely then be cancelled. From everything I have seen and heard, there is too much feel-good hand-waving and back-patting going on at VG, and not enough real engineering. In fact, if they had any sense, this project probably would have never gotten this far with all the sketchy tech they are using. But I do hope I am wrong…

  • windbourne

    yes, and if they were doing a proper test flight program, they would follow an iterative approach and not the waterfall that they are currently doing.
    This is the big difference between SX and BO.

  • ThomasLMatula

    BO is using an iterative program. First work bugs out of the small engine, then test it in a rocket. Then work the bugs out of the bigger engine, then test it in a rocket, using knowledge gained from the smaller one. Then put the two systems together and you have a TSTO RLV.

    The problem is you only see the tip of the iceberg they have to show when they need to go public to flight test their systems

  • ThomasLMatula

    As I noted…

    “PARIS — Blue Origin will likely launch
    the third iteration of its New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle by
    year’s end, paving the way for a human-rated version and ironing out the
    reusability plan for the orbital New Glenn rocket.”