Virgin Galactic plans next test spaceflight in October

Photo: Virgin Galactic

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Virgin Galactic plans to conduct its next crewed spaceflight test on 22 October, according to documents the company filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, announces CNBC.

The flight will be the first of two that the space tourism company has planned to complete testing of its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft system and should have just two test pilots on board. Virgin Galactic said last month that the second test spaceflight will then have four “mission specialists” inside the cabin. If both test flights succeed, Virgin Galactic expects to fly founder Sir Richard Branson in the first quarter of 2021 – a milestone that will mark the beginning of the company’s commercial tourism service.

A Virgin Galactic spokesperson confirmed the filing’s accuracy but noted that the 22 October date marks the beginning of a flight window, so the launch may happen in the days following. Before the 22 October spaceflight, Virgin Galactic said in the filing that it plans to conduct four-hour test flights of the spacecraft’s carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo, with those flights scheduled for 1 October and 7 October.

Virgin Galactic’s next spaceflight will be its first from the company’s operating base at Spaceport America in New Mexico. It will also be Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflight since February 2019, when the company launched chief astronauts trainer Beth Moses as the spacecraft’s first test passenger.