Saturday, December 12, 2009
Virgin Galactic's Timeline Contingent on Several Factors
Las Cruces Sun News
LAS CRUCES — Virgin Galactic finally announced it would begin launches in 2011 as it unveiled its high-tech spaceliner this week in California, but that is a rough timeline and will depend on several factors, said Steve Landeene, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.
The first is length of time it takes to wrap up development and testing of the vehicle, called SpaceShipTwo. That could take about 18 months, he said.
"We're looking at 2011 as a potential timeline," said Landeene, who witnessed the event in Mojave, Calif.
However, Landeene said, in addition to ensuring the vehicle is safe and ready for routine flights, Virgin Galactic also must obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. So how quickly that agency signs off on the vehicle is a variable.
The company on Monday showed its prototype spaceship to the public, attached to the plane that will carry it aloft, the WhiteKnightTwo. Would-be space tourists have already booked seats at $200,000 apiece for the first flights from Spaceport America, the state of New Mexico-owned facility under construction in southern Sierra County.
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority has said construction on the $200 million spaceport will wrap up in late 2010 or early 2011.
Sierra County Commissioner Walter Armijo, a spaceport backer, said the SpaceShipTwo unveiling was a sign of progress in a project he believes will create new jobs.
"Virgin Galactic — they're coming through with their part of the deal," he said.
State Rep. Nate Cote, D-Las Cruces, said the unveiling was a "good step publicity-wise."
"A lot of people were either opposed or cautiously optimistic about the spaceport," he said. "This probably provides a little good publicity, a little hope, that the investment might work out. It certainly appears the spaceport may come out as a good part of the state's economy."