Considerable legal and regulatory challenges still remain:
"He added that difficult decisions still need to be made - where should the spaceport be, do you go for an existing airport (military or civil), or build from scratch? Also, there is currently no regulatory framework in place for spaceflights from the UAE, plus there are ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) and MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) hurdles to be tackled in respect of licensing the rocket technology outside of the US."
MOJAVE, Calif. 07 MAY 2013 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, announced today that pilots Frederick “CJ” Sturckow and Michael “Sooch” Masucci have been selected to join its commercial flight team. As Virgin Galactic clears its final flight test program milestones with powered flight tests now under way, the necessary addition of new pilots will enable the company to meet the test schedule demands and prepare for subsequent commercial operations.
Sturckow, a veteran of four space shuttle missions and retired U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Colonel, is the first NASA astronaut to be hired into Galactic’s pilot corps. Masucci, a retired U.S. Air Force (USAF) Lieutenant Colonel, joins Virgin Galactic from XOJET Inc, a private airline company where he was a Citation X (CE750) Captain and Check Airman. Masucci and Sturckow will report to Chief Pilot David Mackay and Vice President of Operations Mike Moses at Virgin Galactic’s Mojave, Calif., location where they will conduct flight training and testing with Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicles.
Sturckow has more than 26 years of military flight experience and has logged more than 1,200 hours in space. During his flight career, Sturckow logged over 6,500 flight hours, flew more than 60 different aircraft, and was chosen to attend the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN). Selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps in December 1994, Sturckow flew on four space shuttle missions to the International Space Station. In 2009, after 25 years of active duty service, Sturckow retired from the USMC. Sturckow went on to serve as deputy chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office for the final shuttle missions, flying weather reconnaissance in the T-38 and Shuttle Training Aircraft for launch and landing.
“Viewing the Earth from space is such a unique and unforgettable experience,” Sturckow said. “I’m excited to be a part of the Virgin Galactic team that is revolutionizing access to space, making this opportunity a possibility for all.”
Masucci has more than 30 years of civilian and military operational and test flying experience with more than 9,000 flight hours in over 70 different airplane and glider types. A distinguished graduate of USAF pilot training in 1986, he completed USAF Test Pilot School in 1993 and went on to serve as a U-2 combat pilot in several important operations. He instructed in the F-16, T-38 and glider aircraft at the USAF Test Pilot School, while also serving as a Branch Chief. As a U-2 test pilot he was instrumental in the development and testing of the aircraft’s glass cockpit and power upgrade programs. In addition, Masucci has commanded USAF developmental and operational test units, as well as combat and training units.
“Virgin Galactic is truly a world-class organization with unique flight opportunities that you just won’t find anywhere else,” Masucci said. “I’m proud to be a part of this team and look forward to contributing to this revolutionary program.”
“I am pleased to have these two incredibly accomplished pilots join us during this important time as we embark on a series of important rocket-powered flight tests for SpaceShipTwo, ultimately testing the vehicle in space,” said Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides. “Their collective experience and outstanding performance in various demanding environments will make them invaluable assets to the Virgin Galactic team.”
Sir Richard Branson witnesses vehicle-proving milestone as company sets year-end goal for spaceflight
MOJAVE, Calif. – Today, Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJC, completed the first rocket-powered flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic’s entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
“The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date,” said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground in Mojave to witness the occasion. “For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight. Today’s supersonic success opens the way for a rapid expansion of the spaceship’s powered flight envelope, with a very realistic goal of full space flight by the year’s end. We saw history in the making today and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved.”
The test began at 7.02am local time when SS2 took off from Mojave Air and Space Port mated to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), Virgin Galactic’s carrier aircraft. Piloting SS2 were Mark Stucky, pilot, and Mike Alsbury, co-pilot, who are test pilots for Scaled, which built SS2 for Virgin Galactic. At the WK2 controls were Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, assisted by Clint Nichols and Brian Maisler, co-pilot and flight test engineer, respectively, for Scaled.
Upon reaching 47,000 feet altitude and approximately 45 minutes into the flight, SS2 was released from WK2. After cross-checking data and verifying stable control, the pilots triggered ignition of the rocket motor, causing the main oxidizer valve to open and igniters to fire within the fuel case. At this point, SS2 was propelled forward and upward to a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. The entire engine burn lasted 16 seconds, as planned. During this time, SS2 went supersonic, achieving Mach 1.2.
“We partnered with Virgin Galactic several years ago with the aspiration to transform and commercialize access to space for the broader public,” said His Excellency Khadem Al Qubaisi, Chairman of aabar Investments PJC. “Today’s test is another key milestone in realizing that aspiration. Our partnership goes from strength to strength, and is an excellent example of aabar’s desire to participate in the development of world class technologies that are commercially viable and strategically important, both for the company, its shareholders, and for Abu Dhabi.”
The entire rocket-powered flight test lasted just over 10 minutes, culminating in a smooth landing for SS2 in Mojave at approximately 8am local time.
“The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout,” said Virgin Galactic President & CEO George Whitesides. “The successful outcome of this test marks a pivotal point for our program. We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight to space.”
In the coming months, the Virgin Galactic and Scaled test team will expand the spaceship’s powered flight envelope culminating in full space flight, which the companies anticipate will take place before the end of 2013.
“I’d like to congratulate the entire team,” said President of Scaled Kevin Mickey. “This milestone has been a long time coming and it’s only through the hard work of the team and the tremendous support of Virgin Galactic that we have been able to witness this important milestone. We look forward to all our upcoming tests and successes.”
Congratulations to Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites on the successful test flight PF-01, the first rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo, which took place around 07:50PDT in the airspace above Mojave Air and Space Port.
SS2 was carried to an altitude of 47,000 feet by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and released in a glide. After propulsion system cross-checks, pilots Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury commanded ignition of SS2's hybrid motor. The motor burned for 16 seconds, propelling the spaceplane to an altitude of 56,000 feet, and a speed of Mach 1.2. Following engine shutdown, the vehicle proceeded in a glide back to Mojave, landing safely on the runway around 10 minutes later.
Richard Branson informed the Las Vegas Sun of plans to conduct the first powered test flight of the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft from Mojave Air and Space Port on Monday. This first flight is expected to exceed Mach 1:
"That’s your Virgin Galactic project. What’s ahead for that?"
"We’re hoping to break the sound barrier. That’s planned Monday. It will be a historic day. This is going to be Virgin Galactic’s year. We’ll break the sound barrier Monday and from there, we build up through the rest of the year, finally going into space near the end of the year. I’ll be on the first official flight, which we look to have in the first quarter of next year. We’re doing a number of test flights into space first."
A NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) has been issued limiting access for civilian pilots in the airspace around Mojave: