Branson insists he will fly this year

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In an interview for USA Today Richard Branson once again repeated his expectation that he will fly in space on SpaceShipTwo before the end of the year.

It sounds like they plan three test flights with their new engine, followed by Branson’s public relations stunt. Even if this plan happens, however, I do not see them ready to fly paying passengers, as they will probably need more test flights to make sure the ship and its engine are truly trustworthy.



  • Dick Eagleson

    Agree. Branson has done some ballsy things in his time in sailboats and balloons so being an honorary test pilot at this point in his career is hardy out of character. But I think his paying celebrity customers will want to see a bit more track record before they present their tickets and board SS2. Even if the new nylon fuel grain proves usable and gets the SS2 to the Von Karman line with a full load, I don’t see regular commercial service starting until at least mid-2015.

  • Although Virgin Galactic denies it, my sources say they need to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for flying Branson into space. That milestone is stipulated in the agreement with aabar investments, which has funded most of the program. Othewise, there are clawbacks and they possibility aabar will stop providing funding for Virgin Galactic. That would be very bad.

    There’s a problem in that once Virigin Galactic obtains a launch license, the experimental permit lapses. They’re trying to get a measure through Congress to change that aspect of the law, but that august body can’t get even get important legislation approved. With the upcoming mid-terms, it seems unlikely they will vote by the end of the year. Then there’s a new Congress in January, and the process starts all over again.

    So, the scenario you mention is possible. Branson goes up on a test flight out of New Mexico, but Virgin continues to do flight testing into 2015 to prove out the engine before putting any paying customers aboard. Launching commercial service based on three flight tests of the new engine and Branson’s flight is not a wise thing to do.

    Oh, I think it’s even money that just Branson goes up on the flight. Holly has already dropped out due to pregnancy. And I’m guessing they’ll find a reason not to take Sam along, particularly if its a flight test.

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