Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic continues to brush itself off with efforts to rejoin the ever-broadening spaceflight competition.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation has awarded Virgin Galactic an operating license for the new SpaceShipTwo. The licensing follows two years of FAA review in a process covering vehicle system design, safety analysis and flight trajectory analysis.
Then, the same day the 12-year-old company secured the operating license, Virgin Galactic conducted an initial taxi test of the new SpaceShipTwo with a craft dubbed the VSS Unity.
“We still have much work ahead to fully test this spaceship in flight,” senior vp operations Mike Moses acknowledged. “(But) I am confident that our world-class team is up to the challenge.”
Virgin wants to charge upward of $250,000 to send space tourists on suborbital flights, but four persons working on earlier versions of its spacecraft were killed in accidents in 2007 and 2014. The first involved the test-stand explosion of a craft prototype, and the latest involved a mid-air explosion of SpaceShipTwo that was blamed on pilot error.
The new SpaceShipTwo debuted in February with upgraded safety features.
Meantime, space tourism competitors including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin continue to gain momentum. Blue Origin has conducted several successful test flights of its reusable suborbital craft New Shepard.