Virgin Galactic could resume test flights in 6 months
LONDON, United Kingdom – Virgin Galactic could resume test flights with a new spaceship within 6 months, the company said on Friday, November 7, a week after the fatal crash of SpaceShipTwo in the Californian desert.
The United States' National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the accident, which has called into question Virgin chief Richard Branson's dream of tourist flights to the edge of space.
"It's possible that test flights for the next spaceship could begin within 6 months, before the investigation is expected to conclude," a spokeswoman for the British tycoon's company told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
SpaceShipTwo co-pilot Michael Alsbury died in the crash, while the pilot Pete Siebold survived injured. The craft disintegrated shortly after being released from its mother ship WhiteKnightTwo, which flew it up to 45,000 feet (13.7 kilometers).
"NTSB has let us know that we are free to continue operating during the investigation," the spokeswoman said. (READ: Probe of US spaceship crash may take a year)
"We are being thoughtful about how we proceed – first we have to take care of our team and family who have without a doubt been affected by the accident and the loss of their colleague.
"At the same time, comfort and purpose happen by immersing ourselves in the work that brought the brightest minds to Mojave and that is to build the world's first commercial spaceline.
"We will be able to continue flying the mother ship while NTSB look into the cause of the crash," she added. (READ: Lever under scrutiny in Virgin spaceship disaster)
The new test flights could take place in a second SpaceShipTwo, which is 65% complete, the company said Tuesday.
Hundreds of VIPs, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Demi Moore, are said to have put down a $250,000 (200,000 euro) deposit on a space flight.
Virgin Galactic said there was a "small percentage requesting refunds... due to personal circumstances". – Rappler.com