Thursday, 17 October, 2019

Virgin Galactic declares Spaceport America ready for SpaceShipTwo

Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America Virgin Galactic’s first commercial spaceport is "operationally...
Russell Knight | 18 August, 2019, 09:42

Virgin Galactic had been carrying out test flights from Mojave, California, including the first successful launch of its tourism rocket plane into space in December previous year.

Virgin Galactic's existing SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity, remains behind in Mojave.

"It's just a wonderful, special day for us".

Whitesides said that once the test flights are complete, commercial operations can begin.

This undated photo shows Virgin Galactic's spaceflight system as it prepares for flight at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The second story has employee work spaces, largely for meals and socializing, as well as mission control. Unity reached suborbital space for the first time in December 2018 and did it again in February of this year, earning five people - pilots Mark "Forger" Stucky, CJ Sturckow, Dave Mackay and Mike "Sooch" Masucci, and chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses - their commercial astronaut wings.

Virgin Galactic executives offered journalists a tour of their new headquarters and customer center this week at Spaceport America, declaring the facility "operationally ready" for space tourism.

Virgin's Gateway to Space building is a two floor structure primarily focused on spaceflight operations. Once free, it fires its rocket motor to hurtle toward the boundary of space before gliding back down.

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Virgin Galactic has had over 600 people pay deposits of over $77 million combined, towards their tickets on the first spaceflights.

There is some hardware on the ground at the spaceport, mind, as the company's VMS Eve - an aeroplane optimistically branded as the Mothership - has arrived, and will begin test operations from its new home.

The facilities include a mission control center, a working area for pilots, and a briefing center along with modern couches line the floor-to-ceiling windows at the spaceport with panoramic views of the surrounding desert.

Out of the vast hangar bay operate two WhiteKnightTwo planes, such as VMS Eve, the 140-foot-wingspan spaceplane that can transport up to six passengers to a lofty altitude of 50,000 feet. The pilots also will be familiarizing themselves with New Mexico's airspace and landmarks. The space is bathed in a white-and-gray palette meant to represent "light, air and flight".

Richard Branson's space tourism startup, Virgin Galactic, is showing off a luxurious lounge area and top-shelf amenities for its wealthy clientele.

"When both vehicles are in place in New Mexico, we will continue Unity's flight-test program", he wrote.

Gaia's color scheme is meant to complement and evoke the Chihuahuan Desert landscape that surrounds Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic representatives said. Virgin Galactic's spaceship development took far longer than expected and had a major setback when its first experimental craft broke apart during a 2014 test flight, killing the co-pilot.

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