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Virgin Galactic space vehicles get FAA launch permit

Space tourism company Virgin Galactic's space vehicle developer Scaled Composites has been granted an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its SpaceshipTwo spacecraft and carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo.

Both spacecraft are constructed from carbon composite materials using technology developed by Scaled Composites of Mojave, California. The vehicles are being built to carry six 'space tourists', or the equivalent scientific research payload, on sub-orbital space flights.

This important milestone enables our team to progress to the rocket-powered phase of test flight, bringing us a major step closer to bringing our customers to space.
George Whitesides, president and CEO, Virgin Galactic

The FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation issues permits after it has determined that the vehicle operator has taken the appropriate steps to protect the public during testing. SpaceShipTwo is the first rocket-powered vehicle that carries humans on board to receive such a permit.

Flight test programme

With 80 test flights completed, WhiteKnightTwo is substantially through its test plan, while the more recently constructed SpaceShipTwo has safely completed 16 free flights. In addition, ten test firings of the SpaceShipTwo rocket motor have been successfully completed.

With the FAA permit granted, Scaled is now authorised to press onward towards rocket-powered test flights. Scaled expects to begin these towards the end of the year.

About Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites

Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world's first commercial spaceline. The new spaceship (SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve) have both been developed for Virgin Galactic by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 claimed the US$10 million Ansari X Prize as the world's first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic's new vehicles share much of the same basic design, but are being built to carry six customers, or the equivalent scientific research payload, on sub-orbital space flights, allowing an out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience and offering astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space for tourist astronauts and a unique microgravity platform for researchers.

The VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve test flight programme is well under way, leading to Virgin Galactic commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Scaled Composites LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation, is an aerospace and speciality composites development company and the birthplace of many of the world's most exciting aircraft in recent decades, including SpaceShipOne that won the Ansari X Prize in 2004, SpaceShipTwo and Global Flyer.

Founded in 1982 by Burt Rutan, Scaled Composites continues to focus on innovative aerospace solutions through its broad experience in air vehicle design, tooling and manufacturing, speciality composite structure design, analysis and fabrication, and developmental flight tests of air and space vehicles.

 

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