Sometime in 2020, if all goes according to plan, British billionaire Richard Branson will board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity at Spaceport America in New Mexico and take the first commercial suborbital space flight in history.
The landmark flight, which Virgin has been trying to conduct for 15 years, will also be the culmination of a 30-year effort by New Mexico to become a commercial space power.
They’re are having a 20th anniversary reunion for the first flight of the DC-X experimental vehicle in New Mexico this weekend. Although I was unable to go, long-time reader Nickolai Belakovski is there, and he will be filing some reports for us.
Virgin Galactic President George Whitesides spoke earlier today and took some questions. Here’s Nickolai’s report:
He said they’re gearing up for the second powered flight, probably for that September date you wrote about recently. Mentioned there was no flutter in the first powered flight while going through supersonic, in general he seemed to imply that the first flight test went well. They’re building second carrier aircraft and second spaceship, making good progress on both. They even have the cabin for the third spaceship
Someone asked about first spaceflight. He declined to give a date and mentioned that VG has an opinion, scaled has an opinion, jested that his boss has an opinion, clearly referencing Branson’s Christmas wish. “We’ll have to see how it goes”.
I’ve heard the next powered flight might come earlier, possibly later this month. The September date that Nickolai mentions is a gathering of Virgin Galactic’s customers here in Mojave on Sept. 25. That event might include a glide flight.
Bill Gaubatz — President, SpaceAvailable Jess Sponable —Technical Advisor Air Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory Frederick Bachtel — Director of Strategic Planning & Initiatives, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne David Masten — President and CEO, Masten Space Systems Nino Polizzi —Vice President, Universal Space Network James Ball —Senior Manager Flight Engineering, The Boeing Company Yoshifumi Inatani —Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Neil Milburn —Vice President Program Management, Armadillo Aerospace