LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Virgin Galactic is getting closer to sending people into space. It announced its first manned spaceflight from New Mexico will happen sometime between November 19 to 23. The company has flown to space before from California.
“We are extremely excited about this flight. It will mark the first human spaceflight ever to depart from the state of New Mexico. And this is a huge milestone for the people of the state which has built the world’s first commercial spaceport,” Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said.
The November flight will be on the company’s VSS Unity and have two pilots on board. It will be a test for a number of things including cameras to see if the spaceflights can be livestreamed. It will also test reclining seats in the cabin with mannequin passengers in them. The company unveiled its completed cabin design over the summer.
If the November flight is successful, the company will have another test spaceflight in Q1 of 2021. This flight will have two pilots and four employees of the company. If successful, then a third flight will happen in 2021 with the company’s founder, Richard Branson.
“Richard’s flight will be a momentous occasion. It will provide us with important feedback on the cabin design and the astronaut experience. At this stage, we are on track for each of these flights,” Colglazier said.
Only after Branson’s flight will the company re-open ticket sales. So far, about 600 customers have paid for a $250,000 ticket to space. On a call with investors Thursday, the company also announced it is ready to roll out its new vehicle, Second Spaceship, in 2021.
During the call, Colglazier did acknowledge the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic saying it has slowed their progress and hurt costs. While these test flights bring the company closer to commercial operations, there is still no date yet on when it will send paying customers to space. The company eventually aims to have about 400 flights per year per spaceport, starting with Spaceport America.
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