January 23, 2015

2015: A Look at the Year Ahead

We begin 2015 inspired by the words of support we have received from around the world, thankful for our global community of Future Astronauts who have been so steadfast in their commitment, and proud of our team of over 400 rocket scientists, engineers, designers, and more who have come together to create the world’s first commercial spaceline. Most of all, we remain committed to the goal of opening space to all.  2015 will be an important and exciting year, and we are looking forward to the future.

We are well on our way toward completing the second SpaceShipTwo and are planning its test flight program now. The video below will give you a peek behind the scenes at the progress we are making and the team that is working on the vehicles.

 

Our team is organizing the remaining build schedule of the spaceship to accommodate potential lessons from the ongoing NTSB investigation. We are committed to making any modifications or improvements that we feel are necessary to improve the safety of the vehicle.

While the NTSB investigation continues, work has been ongoing at Virgin Galactic to organize our work for the coming year. Our second spaceship is being built by our wholly-owned sister organization, The Spaceship Company (TSC), who along with Virgin Galactic, will be responsible for testing and operating the vehicle.

We have assembled a strong team of test flight professionals including Doug Shane, who ran Scaled Composites’ test flight activities for many years; Mike Moses, the former Launch Integration Manager for the Space Shuttle program and Chair of the Shuttle’s Mission Management team; and Todd Ericson, our VP of Safety and Test, who was the Chief of Safety for the US Air Force Flight Test Center.  Todd is also a pilot, and he is part of a strong pilot corps composed of several other experienced military test pilots, including one shuttle commander, a former U2 and F-16 test pilot, and our Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, who served as a test pilot for the Harrier jet during his service in the Royal Air Force.

This year we will also begin manufacturing our third SpaceShipTwo, taking us further toward our vision of operating a fleet of vehicles. But of course, we aren’t only building spaceships, we are building a spaceline, which means we are working hard on our cabin interiors, fit out of Spaceport America, astronaut training program, commercial operational readiness, and much more.

Our vision for broader, cost effective access to space extends beyond human spaceflight. We’re also hard at work on LauncherOne, our program to launch small satellites. The growing industry of small satellites has already accomplished some extremely impressive things, and yet there is no truly affordable, dedicated option for those customers who want to control their launch date and orbit.  LauncherOne is designed to the lowest price tag of any orbital launch. But we’re not just designing: we’re building, testing, and iterating hardware, making steady progress towards our first test launch of LauncherOne, which we expect in 2016. We are truly excited about the satellites that our LauncherOne customers will fly. Programs like the just-announced OneWeb will make our planet a better place to live.

2015 will also be an exciting year for the space industry overall, with a range of missions that promise to further our knowledge and inspire a new generation to look upward – away from smart phones and the minutiae daily life – to something bigger, something deeper. Missions like the one year stay in space to be conducted by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko aboard the International Space Station, the arrival of the New Horizons spacecraft near Pluto, and NASA’s Dawn probe exploration of the dwarf planet Ceres.

We are excited by the potential of the year ahead and are passionate about our mission because we believe that exploring space will make life better on Earth. The broader perspective that space can provide is crucial to solving our planet’s greatest challenges.  Virgin Galactic in some ways is as much about connecting space to Earth as it is about taking people up to space – by inspiring people to think about humanity’s place on Earth and in the cosmos.

We are undeterred in our commitment to these important goals.  We will persevere and ultimately succeed.  We hope you will join us on the journey.