Virgin Galactic to Test New Rocket without Scaled Composites

Since 2005, Virgin and Scaled had worked together to create the SpaceShipTwo with the eventual goal of making commercial space flight a possibility, however this relationship looks to be ending according to the Los Angeles Times. Kevin Mickey, the president of Scaled Composites, confirmed that his company would no longer be involved in testing, but would still work as a consultant to Virgin Galactic.

The first test flight of the SpaceShipTwo was conducted by Scaled Composites late last year when it broke apart over the Mojave desert, just over 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, killing one of the pilots on board.

Testing of the new spaceship, currently under construction in Virgin Galactic’s HQ in Mojave, will now be conducted by Virgin’s own team of pilots, with tests beginning later on in the year. George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive in an interview told reports that Scaled will still be connected to the project in some way, and that he expects to stay involved with Scaled for years to come on a consultancy basis.

The company is confident about going ahead with the new spacecraft and is already 90% structurally complete. Whitesides told the LA Times that the craft has been modified based on the unreleased findings of the crash investigation but couldn’t go into details due to the ongoing investigation.

Early findings from the crash investigation taken by the National Transportation Safety Board shows that a video taken from inside the cockpit shows co-pilot Michael Alsbury prematurely unlocking the spacecraft’s movable tail, which may have contributed to the series of events that caused the craft to breakup.