A source tells us that Richard Branson is scheduled to return to Mojave next week to lead a tour for some of Virgin Galactic’s roughly 700 ticket holders. Virgin does these trips for ticket holders periodically, but the boss doesn’t always participate, so this is a BFD.
Along for the trip will be Brian Cox, a British physicist and well-known television presenter, the source tells us. We here at ParacolicArc weren’t sure exactly what that was at first. We initially envisioned someone who shows up at the house along with your new TV to explain its features of your new flast screen, program the remote, hook up the satellite receiver, and do all the rest of it.
That was wrong. It turns out a television presenter is what we Americans call a host. Cox appears to be their version of Neil deGrasse Tyson and/or Bill Nye.
Cox was very vocal in supporting Virgin Galactic after the Oct. 31, 2014 fatal accident that destroyed the first SpaceShipTwo and killed Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury.
Readers of this blog will recall Branson was here on Dec. 1 to witness the second SpaceShipTwo’s first glide flight. SpaceShipTwo flew again on Dec. 22, but has not done a glide flight since.
With Branson showing up with the ticket holders and Cox in tow, it’s a good bet another glide flight is coming soon. The boss won’t want to explain a two-month gap in flights to folks who have been waiting years for their trip to space.
Update: It’s occurred to me that Virgin Galactic rolled out SpaceShipTwo No. 2 on Feb. 19, 2016. So, the visit next week is coming a year later.
That’s good timing from a PR perspective. There have been only two glide flights to date. A visit by Branson with Brian Cox and ticket holders in tow is a good distraction for anyone (press, public or customers) who might question the pace of the flight test program.
The timing fits a pattern. WhiteKnightTwo was rolled out a year and two days after the fatal nitrous oxide explosion that killed three engineers. Virgin attempted the first drop test of the second SpaceShipTwo two years and a day after the first spacecraft was destroyed. (It was scrubbed by weather, and the first flight was not completed until a month later.)
PORTLAND, January 18, 2017 (OneStrand PR) — After an extensive technical evaluation, Virgin Galactic has selected OneStrand LLC as their preferred supplier of S1000D technical publishing software, services and support. The R4i S1000D product suite will provide the technology required to create, manage and leverage technical information vital to the operation and maintenance of Virgin Galactic’s human spaceflight systems.
A project to improve a 24-mile dirt road to Spaceport America is moving forward, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.
Doña Ana County commissioners in mid-December OK’d an agreement with several government entities involved in the southern-road project that spells out its parameters and how historical and cultural sites will be protected during construction. (more…)
This interview with Virgin Galactic’s first president, Will Whitehorn, sums up pretty much everything that went wrong with Virgin’s approach to safety as it relates SpaceShipTwo and human spaceflight.
It’s one thing to embrace risk and see it as necessary cost of innovation when you’re dealing with 747’s, passenger trains, cell phones and the myriad other ventures the Virgin Group has pursued. These are mature technologies; most of the technical risks have been ironed out. The main concern is the business will fail and Virgin would lose money.
A Japanese company hoping to build a suborbital tourism vehicle has received an investment from ANA Holding and a Japanese travel agency.
The airline, Japan’s largest by sales, invested ¥20.4 million ($179,000) into PD Aerospace in October, while H.I.S. Co., the nation’s largest publicly listed travel agent by sales, invested ¥30 million [$264,390] at the same time, the companies said in a joint statement with PD Aerospace Thursday.
PD Aerospace, founded in 2007, is vying with billionaire Branson’s commercial space company Virgin Galactic and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to ferry individuals to the edge of space in reusable craft. The Japanese company is first developing a smaller unmanned craft and will then build a ship capable of carrying as many as eight people 100 kilometers above the Earth.
“We need bigger investments in the future,” PD Aerospace President Shuji Ogawa told reporters in Tokyo. Creating a space craft is “taking longer than planned because we didn’t have the funds,” he said.
The company is aiming to start commercial flights with a manned craft in December 2023, it said in the statement. Its website listed 2020 as the targeted year.
Sir Richard Branson ventured out to Mojave Air & Space Port in California for the first glide flight of Virgin Gaalctic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity on Saturday, Dec. 3.
He addressed a crowd of a couple of hundred Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company employees who had gathered near the base of the Mojave control tower to witness the test.
It was the first flight of a SpaceShipTwo vehicle since the first spacecraft Enterprise was destroyed during a powered flight test on Halloween 2014. Unity will undergo a series of glide flights in the months ahead before powered flights begin sometime in 2017.
Recorded at the base of the Mojave Air & Space Port’s control tower about 10 minutes before the drop of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
It was a festive atmosphere as Sir Richard Branson joined employees of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company and their families to watch the flight test.
This was the first flight test of a SpaceShipTwo in more than two years since the first spacecraft broke up during a flight test on Halloween 2014. Virgin Galactic will conduct a series of these tests before moving on to powered flights sometime in 2017.
The flight comes just over two years and one month after the destruction of the first SpaceShipTwo Enterprise during its fourth powered flight test. The accident killed Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury.
The second SpaceShipTwo has made four captive carry flights, one in September and three in November. Two of the November flights were scrubbed drop tests, the first on Nov. 1 due to weather and the second two days later due to an unspecified technical problem.
WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo were back in the sky over Mojave on Wednesday for a captive carry flight of about 2.5 hours. It was a rare afternoon flight test for the vehicles, which are usually flown in the morning.
Virgin Galactic tweeted that the company had made a few tweaks in the spaceship. Richard Branson’s space line did not provide a schedule for the next flight.
The flight test came nearly three months after the pair’s first captive carry on Sept. 8. Virgin Galactic attempted to perform glide flights on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3. The first was canceled after takeoff by high winds at the Mojave Air and Space Port landing site. The second was scrubbed just prior to release by an unspecified technical problem.
Virgin Galactic plans to conduct the first glide test of the second SpaceShipTwo on Tuesday, Nov. 1. It will be the first flight of the spaceship and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft since a captive carry test on Sept. 8.
The flight, which will take place from the Mojave Air and Space Port, will come two years and 1 day after the first SpaceShipTwo broke up during a powered test flight, killing Scaled Composites pilot Mike Alsbury and injuring pilot Pete Siebold.
Virgin Galactic pilot C.J. Sturckow confirmed the date of the flight test during an event on Saturday at the Explorers Club in New York City, according to SpaceNews reporter Jeff Foust.
Sturckow told attendees Virgin Galactic plans “‘spot check’ the glide flight envelope of SS2 and move into powered flight tests in early 2017,” according to a tweet posted by Foust.