Virgin Galactic announced Thursday, before Moses spoke on the second day of the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, that the former senior vice president for operations would now oversee the company's human spaceflight program.
Virgin Galactic was supposed to launch flights from Spaceport America, in southern New Mexico, several years ago. Area taxpayers paid about $219 million to get the spaceport going. But a series of minor setbacks and a major spacecraft crash during testing in October 2014 set the company back years.
“It’s never easy to develop technologies that have never been tried before,” Moses said. “And it often takes more time than anyone anticipates.”
The replacement spacecraft is undergoing flight testing. Moses said. As soon as spacecraft’s safety is assured, Virgin Galactic will be relocating to Spaceport America to commence flying the several hundred passengers who have signed on to become astronauts — a title bestowed on people who have flown more than 62 miles or 325,000 feet above the earth — and have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a two-hour ride.
Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines, has invested more than $500 million in Virgin Galactic. His plans include more than building a rocket ship to give rich people rides into space.
“Sir Richard’s real vision is building a sub-orbital, point-to-point transportation system,” Moses said. “He wants to have the first hypersonic space line.”
Virgin Galactic’s tourism flights from Spaceport America are a means of proving technologies and gaining experience from flying multiple times. Each time SpaceShipTwo flies, taking six passengers into sub-orbital space, it will generate more than $1 million in revenue, cash that underwrites some of the investment.
If Branson’s vision is fulfilled, people will be able to fly at hypersonic speeds — that’s more than 5,000 mph — from Dallas-Fort Worth to London in two hours or from Los Angeles to Sydney in under four hours.
There are roughly 700 Virgin Galactic future astronauts who have already paid deposits for their flights on SpaceShipTwo come from more than 50 different countries, about half of which have never before sent a human to space. They span in age from under 10 to over 90 years of age.
Branson wants hypersonic point-to-point transportation, using a mix of SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne fundamental technologies.
SOURCES- Las Cruces Sun-News, Space.com, virgin galactic