Branson suggests SpaceShipTwo powered flight tests to resume in next few weeks

SS2 3rd powered flight

SpaceShipTwo fires its hybrid rocket engine during its third powered test flight on January 10, 2014. The next powered test flight, using a new hybrid rocket motor, may take place within weeks. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

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.

7 comments to Branson suggests SpaceShipTwo powered flight tests to resume in next few weeks

  • Dave Salt

    The idea of going from first flight with a new engine to staring commercial operations in less than four months, especially given their historical rate of progress, suggests a rather dangerous rush to meet a business goal.

    I really do hope that they succeed because any major failure, especially if it involves fatalities, may be devastating for this a nascent industry.

  • Brian

    Who cares? This is a suborbital toy for rich folks.
    Suborbital stunts don’t impress me. Its Not space flight, not even close. Hell, Balloons go higher.

  • Neil

    Yes, this proposal to fly commercially within a just 4 or so months is ludicrous. One only has to look at progress to date and just add another 6-12 months and you might be in the ball park and guess what, Branson’s daughter will be able to join them. LOL.
    But good luck to them for pressing on.

    • Paul Scutts

      Neil, by the time this bird’s let lose, not only his daughter but his grandchild as well. Just think, three Branson generations … stop the presses!

      • Dick Eagleson

        Like you and Neil I am also very dubious about any commencement of commercial operations by year’s end. But I’m more optimistic about at least the potential for more rapid progress now that the decision has been made to stop flogging the dead horse of the synthetic rubber fuel grain. That is what appears to have mired Virgin Galactic in limbo all these years. I hope the nylon fuel grain proves to be enough better than the rubber one to get VG to at least SS2’s minimum performance goals.

        • Paul Scutts

          I totally agree, Dick. Like you, I wish them the best of luck. To be the ultimate winner, HSF needs as many success stories as it can get.

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