Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic founder and chairman, hopes to perform the first space launch within the next 12 months. ”The mother ship is finished… The rocket tests are going extremely well,” he told in an interview to CNN, “I think that we’re now on track for a launch within 12 months of today.”
If successful, Virgin Galactic would be the first commercial company capable to send people into space. According to Virgin Galactic officials, the company has sold about 430, for an estimated $86 million. The ticket for a suborbital flight – about $200M dollars – is quite expensive for a private citizen, but it’s still way cheaper than current spaceflight. For this reason, Virgin Galactic is targeting the scientific community, as well as wealthy individuals, to fly scientific experiments cheaper and more frequently. Eventually, Virgin Galactic hopes to provide high-speed intercontinental flight, covering distances of a thousand kilometers in about one hour.
Captain Dave Mackay, Virgin Galactic Chief Test pilot and future pilot of SpaceShipTwoVirgin Galactic, has recently performed his inaugural flight. Scaled Composite, developer of Virgin Galactic’s vehicle, has performed more than 70 tests of increasing complexity in the past year, which culminated with a succesful SpaceShipTwo feathered glide on May 4h, 2011