Virgin Galactic aims to rocket to space as soon as Saturday
Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s nascent space tourism company, plans to make its latest run at orbit as soon as Saturday, Feb. 13 from New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
Virgin is working to complete a few more test flights before Branson takes his own long-awaited orbital joyride, followed by paying customers who are coughing up somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter million dollars to become astronauts for a day.
The company attempted a test flight in December, but a computer on board the spacecraft SpaceShipTwo Unity aborted ignition of the rocket motor. The Virgin Galactic team now says it’s corrected the problem and tested it on the ground. The next step is to try again.
Saturday is the earliest we could see Unity and the Virgin carrier aircraft VMS Eve take off from the high desert north of Las Cruces. There are other flight opportunities throughout February if weather or technical issues don’t cooperate.
“The flight will incorporate all of the original test objectives from the previous test flight, including evaluating elements of the customer cabin, testing the livestream capability from the spaceship to the ground, and assessing the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during the boost phase of the flight,” Virgin Galactic said in a statement.
Branson and his company have been working toward sending paying customers to space for over 15 years now. Progress has been delayed during that time by issues including a fatal accident and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, but the finish line for Virgin Galactic has been in view for the past few years. The company has unveiled the look of its flight suits, cabin interior and even the cafe where astronauts and their families will hang out prior to leaving Spaceport America.
As soon as this weekend, Branson and Virgin could be just one more flight away from finally realizing a dream years in the making.