First flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo delayed again
ABC News is reporting that space-tourism company Virgin Galactic has announced that the first flight of their commercial space tourism venture – has slipped to next year. Previously, the company’s owner, British billionaire Richard Branson, had given a number of dates as to when the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo duo would begin ferrying paying customers into the black.
Elected officials in New Mexico bought into the plan and have constructed a quarter-billion-dollar spaceport to support these flights. Those responsible believed that SS2 would begin operations in 2011. However, technical issues involving SpaceShipTwo’s rocket engine have caused that date to repeatedly slip. For their part, Virgin Galactic is stating that they are placing safety in front of scheduling considerations. VG perhaps has good cause to place safety first.
In 2007, three people were killed during a test of SpaceShipTwo’s hybrid rocket engine, it was later determined that the deaths might have been avoided if the company had imposed more stringent safety regulations.
When SpaceShipTwo takes to the skies, tourists will be granted a few minutes of weightlessness and will get to see the Earth from high above where commercial jetliners normally travel. The cost per seat is some $250,000. At present, the company says more than 700 people have booked a trip.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.