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Virgin Galactic provides update on second SpaceShipTwo

Amy Tyndall, News reporter
May 6, 2015, 20:24 UTC

Sen—Virgin Galactic, which is developing a suborbtial spaceship, has posted an update on the build of its second SpaceShipTwo.

The news on its next spacecraft comes a little over six months since the first SpaceShipTwo was destroyed killing co-pilot Mike Alsbury. Pete Siebold, the pilot, parachuted to safety.

The National Transportation Safety Board, responsible for investigating the crash, is yet to disclose its final report, though its early finding was that the vehicle's innovative feathered wing system—designed to create a shuttlecock-like drag effect for reentry—deployed too early, breaking the ship apart.

Meanwhile Virgin Galactic's sister organisation The Spaceship Company has been building a second SpaceShipTwo. Construction of the new spaceship has been progressing at a steady pace according to an update on Virgin Galactic's web site, with the main sections of the wings and the final cure cycle of the main cabin completed.

The spacecraft is now approximately two-thirds assembled and 90 per cent structurally complete. The team hope to remove it from its construction fixtures soon, in order to connect it to its landing gear for the first time.

Virgin Galactic is developing the test program for the second SpaceShipTwo and hopes that test flights will begin later this year.

"Our hope is that the second SpaceShipTwo will enter into testing later this year, beginning with ground testing, then progressing through captive carry flights, glide flights, and eventually powered flights to progressively higher speeds and altitudes," stated Virgin Galactic on its web site.

Two other companies are also developing spaceships for the suborbital market. XCOR Aerospace is building the Lynx spaceplane and aims to begin test flights later this year. Meanwhile Blue Origin, a spaceship company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, last week completed the first unmanned test flight of its New Shepard vehicle.