After years in the making, is Virgin Galactic's answer to leisurely space travel finally on its way?
The SpaceShipTwo, which wannabe space tourists shave been waiting for for years, could be unveiled “within months”, George Whitesides, chief executive of Richard Branson's ambitious space tourism company, said today.
“The last few months have been a challenging time for the company, but we feel like we’re really moving past that now,” he told the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce earlier this week.
We’re working towards internal schedules that we prefer not to release to not put pressure on our engineers. But we’re getting closer.
The ship will send as many as eight tourists up into space per flight, taking off from a base in southern New Mexico.
Described by Virgin Galactic as the “only spacecraft in history designed explicitly to optimise its passengers' experience”, it has windows on the sides and ceilings, giving passengers the best possible view of space.
Whitesides said the estimated build could be completed “within months”, and that ground testing could then begin.
Fist will come glider tests, and after that rocket-powered launches to see how far and safely the SpaceShipTwo will go into space.
Once tests have successfully been completed, Whitesides said the next stage will be to gear up for commercial operations. The company currently employs 500 people, including six pilots.
It is the second attempt by the company to design the space ship, after its first creation was destroyed last year during a premature deployment of the braking system, causing the rocket to crash. The pilot was killed in the accident, and another passenger was seriously injured.