It’s been more than seven months since SpaceShipTwo last flew under rocket power, a hiatus linked in large part to a decision by Virgin Galactic in May to change the fuel used in the vehicle’s hybrid rocket motor. In late July, SpaceShipTwo made its first free flight since January, a glide flight.
Now, Sir Richard Branson hints that SpaceShipTwo will soon resume powered test flights. In a wide-ranging interview with Maria Bartiromo published by USA Today on Sunday, Branson says that Virgin Galactic is still on track to make its first commercial flight before the end of the year, just four and a half months away.
“We’ve got three more rocket tests and then we should be up, up and away by the end of the year,” he said, when asked by Bartiromo about the company’s schedule. “The space port’s [sic] ready. We are now in the last few weeks before finally embarking on the space program.” He also said that the “rockets” have been successfully tested, presumably a reference to static test fires of the new hybrid rocket motor on the ground.
“I’ll be bitterly disappointed if I’m not into space by the end of the year,” he adds. There are, of course, many skeptics who believe that Branson still stands to be “bitterly disappointed” come December 31.