October 26, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
It may be nearly two years before Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo blasts off for suborbital space with commercial passengers aboard, according to a published news report.
In an interview published online by the Wall Street Journal, Virgin Galactic's chief pilot, David Mackay, predicted that it would be at least 2013 before the company's commercial space tourism operations begin. That forecast further pushes back various possible schedules that called for flights in 2008, 2010, and 2012.
AOPA reported Oct. 19 that the space venture founded by Sir Richard Branson had signed a pact with NASA to embark on up to three scientific research missions to be selected by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. No target date was announced for the selection of the experiments, or the flights, which could provide up to $4.5 million in revenue for the space venture. Virgin Galactic has said that its eventual goal was to transport space tourists—who can pay the $200,000 airfare—on daily flights from a so-called spaceport in New Mexico. The science missions marked a new milestone, the company said.
In recent releases, Virgin Galactic did not offer new estimates of when those operations would begin, although the company disclosed that it had collected deposits totaling more than $58 million from “455 future tourist astronauts.”
The online report also noted that Virgin Galactic envisions starting commercial operations with a single flight per week in the craft designed by a team at Burt Rutan's company Scaled Composites. That plan for flights scales back more ambitious schedules touted in previous statements and news reports, but investment and development of the program continued, it said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
The AOPA Medical Advisory Board is the latest group to urge quick action on the proposed FAA rule that would allow thousands more pilots to fly without the need for a third class medical certificate.
Mexico has lifted a requirement that pilots of arriving and departing private general aviation flights use a third party provider to file advance passenger information system (APIS) manifests.
The Perlan Project is less than a year away from the first flight of a glider being built to ride waves near the edge of space. While construction continues in Oregon, the team’s pilots are staying proficient in more ordinary aircraft.
VOLUNTEER AT AN AOPA FLY-IN NEAR YOU!
SHARE YOUR PASSION. VOLUNTEER AT AN AOPA FLY-IN. CLICK TO LEARN MORE >>>
VOLUNTEER LOCALLY AT AOPA FLY-IN! CLICK TO LEARN MORE >>>
BE A PART OF THE FLY-IN VOLUNTEER CREW! CLICK TO LEARN MORE >>>