Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America Is ‘Operationally Ready’

Virgin Galactic has declared its new base at Spaceport America operationally ready as the company sets its sights on the long-anticipated start of commercial sub-orbital space flights from the New Mexico facility in 2020.

The milestone comes three months after the spaceline company announced it was transitioning the remaining flight tests of its SpaceShipTwo VMS Unity from Mojave Air & Spaceport in California to New Mexico to accelerate operational preparedness. Since May around 90 personnel have been transferred to the new site along with the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft which was ferried across from Mojave on Aug 12.

“We’ve been ready for a while with the basic infrastructure in terms of a building, but we haven’t had the team together with all the basic services,” says Virgin Galactic president Mike Moses. “On the vehicles side we’ve been able to house them, but servicing equipment and mission control has been in Mojave. Now we have a complete mission control set up here and probably the final piece of that was a telemetry tracking system which we have now installed here.”

“The only piece that’s not quite ready is the fuel farm, though the Spaceport is in the middle of upgrading that,” he adds. The other systems required to fuel the hybrid rocket-powered SS2 such as nitrous gas, helium and nitrogen systems are already installed and operational. However, Moses believes “hard core” flight tests will not be fully supportable until the end of the year pending completion of the fuel farm expansion.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, based in Los Angeles. Before joining Aviation Week in 2007, Guy was with Flight International, first as technical editor based in the U.K. and most recently as U.S. West Coast editor. Before joining Flight, he was London correspondent for Interavia, part of Jane's Information Group.


 

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