Monday morning Virgin Galactic will be rolling out White Knight 2, the carrier aircraft that will be used to launch SpaceShipTwo, at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The aircraft won’t be flying tomorrow, by all accounts: Virgin’s Will Whitehorn said in May that test flights of WK2 would likely begin in August or September. Still, Virgin is hyping up the event, even finding a way to tie its space tourism venture with a terrestrial airline: press and invited guests will be flown to Mojave from LAX on a Virgin America jet early Monday, and there may be other announcements tomorrow linking the two ventures.
Indeed, as the AP reports this weekend, “The last time there was this level of buzz in the high desert north of Los Angeles was in 2004″ for the SpaceShipOne suborbital flights. (That’s a statement that could be perceived as something of an indictment of the lack of visible progress in the nearly four years since SS1 won the Ansari X Prize.)
Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic continues to sign up customers, although one nationality is missing, The Sunday Mail reports: Scots. That’s particularly disappointing to Whitehorn, himself Scottish. “It really surprises me but there is still time before the first flight takes off,” he told the paper. One other item of note: according to the article Virgin has now sold 258 tickets for its suborbital flights, although it’s not clear from the article if they have collected the full $200,000 from all of those customers. Another 600 are ready to pay when commercial flights begin.
Unfortunately for one potential customer, it will be a long time before Virgin is able to fly people to the Moon. Sorry, “Madge”.