By Courtney Trenwith
Aabar-backed firm insists at least 700 people are still ‘eager to fly’ to space despite the loss of a pilot in October
Virgin Galactic, the Abu Dhabi-backed company attempting to be the first to take tourists to space, reportedly expects to begin testing a new spacecraft this year, following a fatal crash six months ago.
The chief executive of the US-based company founded by Richard Branson, George Whitesides, said lessons had been learned from the October 2014 crash, which killed one of the pilots and raised serious doubts about the viability of the mission.
“The first message that I wanted to communicate is that we are moving forward well,” Whitesides said at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, according to Financial Times.
“The team is doing great and has turned a corner — that is the second spaceship.”
The crash is believed to have been caused when the co-pilot Michael Alsbury, who died, unlocked a “feathering” mechanism designed to slow a descending craft while it was still climbing.
Pilot Peter Siebold survived.
Several high profile people who had paid $250,000 to be on board one of the first trips to space pulled out of the venture following the crash.
But Sir Richard has insisted he retains the support of most customers. He told Arabian Business in April last year the first paying customers would travel to space in 2015. That deadline now seems impossible.
Arabian Business was told earlier this month by one of the paying customers that he had been told the flights would begin early 2016.
Whitesides reportedly told the space symposium about 700 people were still “eager to fly”.
“Things, I think, are moving forward in a positive way, and that’s encouraging,” he said.