Branson says the second SpaceShipTwo will be ready to start testing by February 2016. SpaceShipTwo is designed to bring six passengers up to suborbital space before bringing them back down to Earth. All the building and testing of the suborbital craft is all being done in-house at Virgin Galactic, a handover that was in the works before the 2014 accident. CEO Whitesides:
I think we are in a much better place than we might have expected in the period immediately after (last year’s) accident, and that’s because our team came together, our customers stuck with us, and honestly, we believe that the vehicle itself is sound.
While Branson is not giving a firm date for the inaugural flight of SpaceShipTwo — with himself and his family among the passengers — he believes the company is on the right track.
We’ll be unveiling the new spaceship and then we go into flight tests. That’s one thing I’m never going to be in a hurry on. We just have to see how it goes.