Book Your Virgin Galactic Flight Online and Save Up to Zero Percent

Great news, millionauts! You can now book your flights aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo online. Just follow these six easy steps:

  1. Visit www.kayak.com.
  2. Enter “90n” into the “From” box.
  3. Enter “50m” into the “To” box.
  4. Set your departure and arrival dates as the same.
  5. Choose “First” class.
  6. Hit “Search”.
  7. Choose “Select” to be taken directly to the Virgin Galactic booking page.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any saving attached to booking online — yet. I’m guessing that’s on its way — in 18-24 months.  And that will probably be true for the next six to 10 years.

Virgin Galactic’s Whitesides: We Don’t Do Schedules…Anymore

Cosmic Log’s Alan Boyle talks to new Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides about the company’s plans for suborbital flight. Eventually, THAT question came up again:

Q: I’m sure anytime you talk about what you’re doing, people ask you when the rides will become available. What are you able to say about how the time frame is developing? What’s the latest?

A: It’s funny, Alan, you’re the first person to ask me that question … in the last 10 minutes. As you know, we do not have a public schedule because we want our flight testing to be focused on building a safe vehicle. But as I think others have expressed, and certainly Richard has expressed, our hope is to get to space this coming year. That’s obviously dependent on flight test. We’ll go into commercial operation as soon as we can, and as soon as we’re able to work with the FAA to get a commercial license. So far, things are progressing well. We’re very excited about the glide test results — we’ve just had another fantastic flight. The vehicle is flying very well. So … so far, so good.

Yep, safety.This thing’s going to safer than a couch in a safe at Fort Knox before Richard Branson and his family climb aboard with designer Burt Rutan in tow.

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Martinez Sacks Spaceport Board as Problems at Spaceport America Surface

Terminal Hangar Facility at Spaceport America.

Gov. Susana Martinez sacked the entire New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board of Directors on Friday. Two days later, the Albuquerque Journal published an investigative report exposing construction delays, poor planning, and weak managerial oversight on the $209-million desert spaceport outside of Truth or Consequences.

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Whitehorn Leaves Virgin Galactic to Focus on “Other Business Interests”

Will Whitehorn gives a pat on the back to Richard Branson as he greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders during the Oshkosh air show in 2009.

Below is Virgin Galactic’s official press release announcing Will Whitehorn’s departure from the company. With traveling and the holidays, I overlooked it until now.

VIRGIN GALACTIC PRESS RELEASE
Dec. 23, 2010

Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic since the formation of the company in 2004, is to retire from that role in January 2011. George Whitesides, who was appointed as the first full time CEO in May 2010, assumes the title of President and CEO.

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Whitehorn Out at Virgin Galactic, Whitesides In

Will Whitehorn gives a pat on the back to Richard Branson as he greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders during the Oshkosh air show in 2009.

Virgin Galactic’s president announces his resignation
Los Angeles Times

Will Whitehorn, president of the world’s first spaceliner Virgin Galactic, will retire from that role in January.

He will be replaced by George T. Whitesides, a former NASA chief of staff, who was also appointed as Virgin Galactic’s first full-time chief executive earlier this year.

Whitehorn is leaving the company to “concentrate on other business interests,” a press release said.

Read the full story.

Suborbital Spotlight: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

Gear down on SpaceShipTwo. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist has published detailed information about suborbital vehicles that will be available beginning in 2011 for researchers to conduct microgravity experiments. The vehicles are being built by Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR.

Today we will look at Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.  The eight-seat suborbital vehicle built by Scaled Composites is currently being tested in Mojave, Calif.

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Whitehorn “Hopping Mad” Over Soot Study

The Guardian reports that Virgin Galactic’s Will Whitehorn was “hopping mad” over a recent study indicating that SpaceShipTwo might not be as clean as the company claims:

“The research was fundamentally wrong,” he says. “If you had a Virgin Galactic program running for ten years, if you assumed that we weren’t using biobutinol (which we will) we’re talking about less environmental impact over ten years than 1.5 shuttle launches.”

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Whitehorn Predicts SpaceShipTwo Test Flights into Space Next Year

Gear down. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

Private SpaceShipTwo Heads for New Territory
Space.com

Whitehorn said more SpaceShipTwo glide tests are in the offing. Those tests will include a high-altitude drop of the craft that will allow the pilots to feather and unfeather the SpaceShipTwo’s novel, care-free tail section used during the fall back into Earth’s atmosphere. This configuration allows a “hands-off” re-entry to Earth and greatly reduces aerodynamic and thermal loads on the craft.

These tests will be followed by attachment of the spaceplane’s hybrid rocket motor.

“There will be very short firings of the motor, and then we’ll extend those burns and we’ll start climbing into space,” Whitehorn told SPACE.com. “I think we can pretty safely say now that we’ll be in space in 2011. It’s taken a little bit longer. But the point is that it has been done safely.”

Read the full story.

Spaceship Company Breaks Ground on Mojave Production Facility

VG/TSC CEO George Whitesides, CA Sen. Elect Jean Fuller, Mojave Air and Space Port General Manager Stuart Witt, TSC Director of Operations Enrico Palermo, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher at the ground breaking for The Spaceship Company's production facility in Mojave. Photo by Mike Mills

TSC PRESS RELEASE
November 9, 2010

The Spaceship Company (TSC) broke ground today for its new Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar today at Mojave Air & Space Port, with the presence of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-22) , Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46) and Rep. Jean Fuller.

TSC is a new aerospace production company, founded by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation. TSC’s mission is to build the fleet of SpaceShipTwos and WhiteKnightTwos for its customer Virgin Galactic.

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The Spaceship Company Breaks Ground on Production Facility in Mojave

Gear down. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

Spacecraft factory to break ground in Mojave
Los Angeles Times

A production facility that would build the world’s first fleet of commercial spaceships is set to begin construction Tuesday at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

The 68,000-square-foot facility, one of the first aircraft assembly plants to be built in the region in decades, will be home to the Spaceship Co., or TSC — a joint venture owned by Mojave-based Scaled Composites and British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company.

TSC hopes to complete the complex by September 2011. It expects to build three White Knight aircraft, which resemble massive flying catamarans, and five smaller SpaceShipTwo rocket planes.

Read the full story.

Virgin Galactic Questions Soot Study, But When Will It Release Emissions Calculations?

Gov. Bill Richardson and Richard Branson with SpaceShipTwo.

Virgin Galactic President George Whitesides sees some problems with a recent study about soot emissions from commercial space planes impacting the upper atmosphere and affecting the global climate:

Whitesides had two major criticisms of the study. “One of the things that’s a little disappointing is that the authors didn’t include a range of uncertainty in their model,” he said. “What’s the confidence around that number? I don’t think we know that.”

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CCDev Third Quarter Report: Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser - a seven-person space shuttle designed for orbital flight.

Program: NASA Commercial Crew Development (CCDev)
Company:
Sierra Nevada Corporation
Project:
Dream Chaser shuttle
Award: $20 million

Third Quarter Progress Report
(July 1-Sept. 30, 2010)

The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program continued to make excellent progress per plan during the 3rd quarter of 2010. The CCDev team conducted several internal reviews in July to ensure a proper technical plan and schedule was in place to conduct the Propulsion Module Test Firings in September. Several technical meetings were held in the month including a Reaction Control System Technical Interchange Meeting, mid-term reviews for GNC/Avionics, and a Primary Structure Design and Test Plan review. Additional management staff was added as well as experienced engineers in support of the Structures and Systems Engineering Integrated Product Teams.

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