Virgin Galactic is back on track with plans for its next spaceship and expects to show off a new version of SpaceShipTwo early next year.
The original SpaceShipTwo space plane from Virgin Galactic disintegrated in a tragic accident back in 2014, killing one of its pilots and seriously injuring another. At the time, it remained unclear whether Virgin Galactic would continue to pursue such ambitions or ditch its plans altogether.
One year later, Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson now states that the private space flight company is back on track and is busy working on a new version of the spaceship. Branson expects to show off the progress in early 2016 and start tests shortly after that.
"The last 12 months everyone's worked incredibly hard," reckoned Branson. "We're very much back on track now."
Engineers and other specialists have been busy working on the second version of SpaceShipTwo in the past year and it seems they have made notable progress, considering that Branson thinks it will be ready for an early 2016 unveiling.
"Twelve months ago was obviously not a good day," Branson recalled.
As a reminder, SpaceShipTwo went in the sky on Oct. 31, 2014, carried by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, but it disintegrated shortly after it was released and started flying on its own. The crash claimed the life of pilot Michael Alsbury, while pilot Peter Siebold managed to parachute to safety, although he also suffered serious injuries.
In the wake of the tragedy, Branson was no longer sure whether Virgin Galactic should go on with the project.
"But the 600 engineers and technicians, and the 800 astronauts, made it very clear they wanted to," said Branson.
George Whitesides, the CEO of Virgin Galactic, added that the company is now in a "much better place" than it might have thought in the period following the accident.
"That's because our team came together, our customers stuck with us, and honestly, we believe that the vehicle itself is sound."