Branson Back to Making Predictions About SpaceShipTwo’s Schedule

Richard Branson and George Whitesides gave out at SpaceShipTwo after it came to a stop. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Now that the second SpaceShipTwo Unity has five glide flights under its belt, the “we’ll fly when we’re ready, we don’t make predictions” era appears to be officially over at Virgin Galactic.

“I certainly would be very disappointed if I don’t go up next year. And I would hope it’s earlier than later in the year,” Richard Branson told British GQ. “The programme says that we should be [testing] in space by December, as long as we don’t have any setbacks between now and then.”

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SpaceShipTwo Nearly Crashed in 2011

SpaceShipTwo, ready for its closeup. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
SpaceShipTwo, ready for its closeup. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Ship Entered Inverted Flat Spin
Officials Downplayed Incident at Time
Near Disaster Cancelled Glide Flight at Spaceport America

The SpaceShipTwo vehicle that crashed one year ago nearly met its end three years earlier during a hair-raising flight test that officials at builder Scaled Composites and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic downplayed at the time, according to documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

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Holly Branson Likely Out of First SpaceShipTwo Commercial Flight

 Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)
Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

Editor’s Note: It’s official. Sir Richard has been reassuring the British media that Holly will not be the first person to give birth in space — a rather outlandish idea that some in the press corps over there seem strangely fixated on. Welcome to the world, twins! Now get ready for the 6G re-entry. Bizarre.

It would seem that Richard Branson’s daughter Holly will not be joining her famous father and brother Sam on the first SpaceShipTwo commercial flight, which is scheduled for the end of the year from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“Freddie and I are delighted to share the happy news that we are expecting twins!” Holly Branson announced on Tuesday in a blog post on the Virgin Group’s website.

Passengers aboard SpaceShipTwo are expected to briefly experience up to six times the force of normal gravity during the suborbital flight.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides has said the company plans to conduct a “handful” of additional SpaceShipTwo test flights at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California before moving operations to New Mexico later this year.

The Branson flight is set to kickoff commercial service of the vehicle, for which about 700 people have signed up. Tickets cost $250,000 each.

Space Conferences, Engine Claims and Silly Putty

SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Over the years, I’ve heard many speakers at various space conferences and events say all sorts of things that I felt…oh, comment on dit?…stretched the truth like Silly Putty. Yes, that’s a polite way to put it.

After a while, I’ve become quite numb to it all — the hype, promises, publicity stunts, optimistic schedules that get blown away like fallen leaves on a windy Mojave day. By this point, most of it just passes over me without meriting so much as a mention.

But, sometimes I hear something that stretches the rhetorical Silly Putty beyond the breaking point. I had just such an experience three weeks ago at the Space Tech Expo in Long Beach, Calif.

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SpaceShipTwo Back on the Ramp

mojave_tower_sunset_smBy Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After a couple of months inside the hangar undergoing modifications, SpaceShipTwo is outside on the ramp today at the Mojave Air & Space Port in California.

Scaled Composites engineers are running the suborbital space plane through pressure tests on the cockpit, according to sources. The vehicle does not have an engine installed.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo last flew under power on Jan. 10, completing a 20-second burn of its hybrid nitrous oxide-rubber engine and reached an altitude of 71,000 feet. The ship flew again in an un-powered glide flight one week later before going into the hangar for changes.

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Today Show to Broadcast Branson’s Trip to Space

branson_kissing_sstwo
NEW YORK, NY, November 8, 2013 (NBCUniversal PR) —
Announced this morning on NBC’s TODAY, NBCUniversal inked an exclusive multi-platform partnership with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, to televise the inaugural commercial space flight of SpaceShipTwo.

Next year, Sir Richard and his adult children, Holly and Sam, will be the first private passengers to travel into space on SpaceShipTwo from Virgin Galactic’s terminal at Spaceport America in New Mexico. NBC News’ award-winning Peacock Productions will chronicle the journey across a myriad of NBCUniversal brands and platforms including CNBC,MSNBC, NBCNews.com, Syfy, The Weather Channel and more, culminating in a primetime special airing on NBC the night before launch, and a three-hour live event on “TODAY,” hosted by Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie.

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Branson Visits Mojave, Renames Spaceship Company

Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, CA – Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, today dropped into his Mojave, Calif.-based Virgin Galactic space company as part of a visit to the Los Angeles area. During his visit, Sir Richard, accompanied by his daughter, Holly, toured the extensive facilities and met informally with the Mojave-based workforce now numbering more than 175 Virgin Galactic employees. Sir Richard announced to staff that Virgin Galactic’s Mojave-based sister organization, The Spaceship Company, which will manufacture and assemble a fleet of commercial space vehicles, is to be renamed and brought under the Virgin Galactic brand.

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