Branson Says SpaceShipTwo Will Reach Space Within Weeks

Richard Branson rolls out Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Unity in Mojave. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Richard Branson is back in the headlines again talking schedules for SpaceShipTwo.

“We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years,” the Virgin founder and CEO told CNBC’s Nancy’s Hungerford at the Barclays Asia Forum in Singapore Tuesday.

You can read the rest of the interview — in which he repeats the same things he’s been saying for the last 14 years — here.

What I think this means is that another flight test is coming soon. On the last one back in July, they fired the engine for 42 seconds. I would expect the upcoming flight will entail a full engine burn of about 60 seconds. This is a deduction on my part; there’s just not a lot of places to go in terms of burn length.

A full burn would get SpaceShipTwo to some definition of space. The international beginning of space — known as the Karman line — is 100 km (62.1 miles). The U.S. Air Force (USAF) awarded astronaut wings to X-15 pilots who flew to at least 50 miles (80.4 km) during the 1960’s.

Virgin Galactic’s agreement with its ticket holders uses the USAF standard as the minimum altitude promised. Since there are no mile markers up there, the view will be similar but the amount of time in microgravity will be slightly less than if the vehicle gets to the Karman line.

Several additional test flights are expected before Branson boards the first official commercial flight at Spaceport America in New Mexico. At this point, I’m guessing that will happen some time in 2019.

  • Robert G. Oler

    oh comeon. Musk said that only 500 people or so are working on the project now that is hardly full development. the last sentence is wishful thinking

  • Michael Halpern

    Plus anything short of that really contaminates the results, with how dynamic all reentries are, I dont even know how you would simulate it properly with atmospheric pressures and temperatures involved and rapidly changing and super sonic much of the way, in a test chamber. I strongly suggest the control surfaces will be moved by high torque electric motors, because hydraulics are too slow and pneumatics are too weak, now if only there was a company that shares a number of development resources with SpaceX that specializes in high torque electric motors and very precise control of said motors… I mean Testing JAXA’s new mini return capsule and sample return capsules of similar size is one thing. Even then there’s no such thing as a super sonic wind tunnel

  • Robert G. Oler

    because the cost to launch include more than just gas and go and/or replacing an engine or putting the capsule back on for both groups

  • windbourne

    I am just curious as to where their first test flight will be from. Mcgregor would be out due to transportation and noise. Perhaps Boca Chica, but I suspect that the locals would be pretty angry about that. That leaves Vandenberg and Kennedy.
    Or I wonder if Omelek Island would be available again? It would make for decent hops. Nobody lives around it, so it would be perfect for doing this.
    But, I see no upgrade in the site to handle either of these.

  • Michael Halpern

    South Texas, locals will come to think of the noise as the sound of jobs. They have stated this a while back