Virgin Galactic enters 'home stretch' of tests

Federico Mansilla
May 13, 2019

The move will occur after The Spaceship Company, a firm owned by Virgin Galactic, completes the cabin interior for the SpaceShipTwo vehicle VSS Unity, George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic chief executive, said during a May 10 press conference at the New Mexico State Capitol Building in Santa Fe broadcast on Facebook Live.

"Everybody is on a high at Virgin Galactic", he said.

Former U.S. Rep. Robert Walker, a private space consultant who is working with Blue Origin, said it plans for a 2023 launch without people. It stood as a symbol for the uncertain future of whether private companies would one day be able to fly ordinary people to space.

A follow-up flight sent two other pilots and Virgin crew member Beth Moses to astronaut-worthy altitudes in February. It will complete its final test flights from New Mexico for commencing a full commercial service for passengers and research payload.

'Virgin Galactic is coming home to New Mexico where together we will open space to change the world for good'.

It was in September 2000, when Amazon Inc founder Jeff Bezos founded aerospace manufacturing and sub-orbital spaceflight services company Blue Origin LLC, with aims to develop a variety of technologies, with a focus on rocket-powered vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) vehicles for access to suborbital and orbital space.

"We are now ready to bring New Mexico a world-first, world-class spaceline", Branson said. In December, Virgin's ship - the VSS Unity - made it to space, which is defined as 100 kilometres above earth. "Pictures do not do the view from space justice". "And then the rocket motor lights".

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The architectural marvel sat largely empty and inactive as Virgin struggled to build a spacecraft that could safely and reliably ferry people to the edge of space. Micro-satellites can also be strapped to the top of the rover and deployed in lunar orbit.

Virgin Galactic also is updating the hangar for vehicle and operations support. Branson's goal has been to "democratize" space by opening travel up to more and more people.

"They've been patient too", Branson said.

But after two successful flights through the upper limits of the atmosphere, Virgin said it is now ready to move its operations from Mojave, Calif. - where it has built and tested SpaceShipTwo - to New Mexico.

"It's tremendous what Jeff [Bezos] and his team are doing", he said. As if that's not enough, next week, the company will launch a number of broadband satellites, as part of its long-term goal to provide global internet coverage, an initiative the company says will require 12,000 satellites. The Virgin Group Ltd. boss created Virgin Galactic in 2004, and has since been adamant he'll get average Joes to space before anyone else. The aircraft called VSS Unity reached an altitude of 271,268 feet, reaching the lower altitudes of space.

"Nestled in southern New Mexico's Mesilla Valley between the Rio Grande River and Organ Mountains, Las Cruces also has close connections to space tourism as the gateway to New Mexico and the United States" first commercial spaceport, Spaceport America; an Annual Space Festival; and a full-size replica of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo. "With these workers here and with these plans firmly in place, I'm certain New Mexico will serve as the launchpad for the rapid industry growth we've been expecting for so many years".

"Virgin Galactic's announcement today is an incredibly exciting development for both our state's economic future and the future of aerospace in general", the governor said in a prepared statement. "Before commercial operations begin, we will need to finish evaluation of the new outfitted cabin, the experience and the training program for our astronaut customers".

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