Virgin Galactic again pushes back first space tourism flight | Monday, Sep 15, 2014

Virgin Galactic again pushes back first space tourism flight

« White Knight Two and SpaceShipTwo on the taxiway at Spaceport America » par Jeff Foust — Flickr: WK2/SS2 on the taxiway. Sous licence Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Virgin Galactic has again pushed back its time line for launching space-tourism flights from southern New Mexico’s Spaceport America.

Virgin owner and British billionaire Richard Branson told David Letterman this week that he hopes to board the first flight early next year. The company previously said it wanted to get the first flight launched by the end of 2014.

The company for years has been pushing back its launch date as it works to overcome challenges developing its rocket motor. When New Mexico first agreed to build the quarter-billion-dollar spaceport with Virgin Galactic as an anchor tenant, officials predicted flights would start in 2011.

Virgin Galactic officials say they are emphasizing safety over meeting time lines.

Virgin Galactic’s plan is to take tourists into space for $250,000 per person. The company says more than 700 people have signed up for the trip.

On Wednesday, Virgin brought the WhiteKnightTwo “mothership” to the spaceport for test flights. The aircraft will take its rocket-powered spaceship up to 50,000 feet for it to launch into space.

Whitesides called the craft’s visit it to New Mexico a “critical milestone on our path to operations from Spaceport America.” Most of the company’s testing and operations are in the Mojave Desert.

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