At the end of Saturday’s sessions at the NewSpace 2010 conference in Silicon Valley, Enrico Palermo, project engineering manager for Virgin Galactic, gave a brief update on the company’s activities. There weren’t any new announcements about the company’s efforts, nor (consistent with their past practices) predictions about future flights. Palermo did show video of their most recent captive carry flight, the first time a crew flew in SpaceShipTwo, as well as some new photos of work on SpaceShipTwo in Scaled’s facilities, showing the spaceplane’s wings rotated up in the feathering position that provides for the “carefree” reentry of the vehicle, in much the same way as SpaceShipOne.
Palermo did provide a few updated statistics about the company and the vehicle testing program. WhiteKnightTwo now has over 100 hours of flight time on 33 flights since the test flight program began in late 2008. SpaceShipTwo, meanwhile, has now flown three captive cary flights. On the business side, the company now has over 350 customers who have paid deposits ranging from $20,000 to the full $200,000, with a total of now over $50 million. Those deposits, he added, are held in escrow for now, and won’t be converted to company revenue until the tickets are formally issued.
Palermo also briefly discussed The Spaceship Company (TSC), the joint venture between Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites that will manufacture the WK2 aircraft and SS2 spaceplanes. “This is a company you’re going to be hearing a lot more about over the next year or so,” he said. “We’re currently assembling a team of individuals to run TSC in Mojave; we’re recruiting like mad.” (There is a list of job openings on the TSC web site.) TSC is currently located in an existing building at Mojave Air and Space Port, but Palermo said there are plans to build a new final assembly hangar there.