Virgin Galactic has postponed the launch of its SpaceShipTwo space vehicle for commercial takeoffs to next year. Additionally, the firm intends to sell some of its resources to finance this launch.
The company stated on August 3 that they are planning to conduct flight trials for the SpaceShipTwo vehicle from Spaceport America. So far, they have been able to conduct two trials since moving the spacecraft to this facility in New Mexico.
One of the upcoming trials of SpaceShipTwo will host two pilots. George Whitesides, the chief space officer of Virgin Galactic, revealed that the flight would also be containing NASA’s Flight Opportunities program payloads. These payloads are for the scheduled experiments in space.
This mission’s success will allow Virgin Galactic to forge ahead with the second mission, hosting four astronauts and two pilots. The passenger-astronauts will be testing the performance of the passenger cabin and its resources. Virgin Galactic launched the cabin this though Whitesides stated that they are working on the fusion of the cabin into SpaceShipTwo spacecraft called VSS Unity.
Whitesides articulated that the success of the two missions will allow them to send Sir Richard Branson to space via the third vehicle. This flight will be the milestone for Virgin Galactic and the initiation of the company’s commercial launches. Whitesides adds that Sir Richard will assess the cabin and give a detailed evaluation report, which can help the firm technically modify the SpaceShipTwo cabin capsule.
In the acquisition of Social Capital Hedosophia, Virgin Galactic anticipated beginning launch operations by June next year. However, with the coronavirus pandemic, the firm altered this schedule to focus on Branson’s flying expert by December this year.
Whitesides admits that the pandemic slowed the completion of SpaceShipTwo and its subsequent flight trials. He adds that the coronavirus health measures impede the number of engineers and technicians they can recall to work in their Mojave and New Mexico ground facilities.
Additionally, Whitesides says that the pandemic has slackened the sales forcing the company to call off some of its income-generating projects. For instance, the One Small Step initiative paused with the company going back to marketing this program.
Some of the desperate measures to thrive by Virgin Galactic include selling spaceflight experiences and collaborating with NASA through the Space Act Agreement. Whitesides adds that other financial projects that will support SpaceShipTwo are signing up spaceflight customers for orbital flights.
In conclusion, Whitesides hopes that this offer will attract more customers to the Virgin Galactic brand. The company is also launching Mach 3 to take customers for space exploits at hypersonic speed. Virgin Galactic is collaborating with Rolls-Royce to understand how they can modify this spacecraft’s engines to move at high speed.