Virgin Galactic will today unveil their newest SpaceShipTwo, which will resume test flights later this year. The testing of the reusable space plane had been halted due to tragic events during previous flights and Virgin Galactic have a lot to prove if they want to someday bring customers to the edge of space.
In 2004, Sir Richard Branson announced SpaceShipTwo and boldly claimed it would be launching customers into space 3 years later. Instead, 2007 saw the death of 3 people during rocket tests. A year later, Virgin Galactic promised customers would be in space by 2009, which quickly became 2011. SpaceShipTwo is associated with a history of bold claims and also disasters.
More recently in 2014, Virgin Galactic appeared to be confident that progress was being made and announced that the first customers would be in space during 2015. Tragically, a test co-pilot was killed in October 2014 and all flights were halted. Michael Alsbury lost his life after activating the ship’s braking system too early, which the ship was not designed to withstand. The fact that the pilot could activate it at the wrong time is one of the issues that needs to be addressed in the new tests that begin this year.
It’s exciting to see Virgin Galactic’s beautiful SpaceShipTwo back in action and fascinating to think that space tourism could be a real thing someday. Hundreds of people have already signed up for the £174,500 trip to the edge of space. I’d be tempted if I could afford it, but not until Virgin Galactic proves they can learn from past mistakes and stop tragedy from being a recurring theme.
Main image © Virgin Galactic