Virgin Galactic started preparing for the first spaceflight out of its new Spaceport America HQ in New Mexico last month. Back then, the aerospace company only said that its flight planning window will open on October 22nd, but it didn’t give a more concrete launch date. Now, Virgin Galactic has revealed that it has decided on a launch window for the SpaceShipTwo test flight, which you can expect to take place between November 19th and 23rd.
The company bundled the announcement with the report for its financial results for the third quarter of 2020. Apparently, SpaceShipTwo will carry revenue-generating payloads as part of the NASA flight opportunities program for this particular mission. Virgin Galactic also underscored the agreement it entered to fly planetary scientist Dr. Alan Stern aboard the SpaceShipTwo so he can conduct experiments in suborbital space.
Ticket sales for suborbital trips will re-open in 2021 after Richard Branson’s flight, the company said, which it’s hoping to accomplish in the first quarter of 2021. That said, it’s ending One Small Step — the program it opened to bump qualified customers to the front of the line for "firm" reservations — on December 31st. It has reached close to 900 participants as of October 31st. On the financial side of things, Virgin Galactic reported a net loss of $77 million, much higher than its $63 million net loss for the previous quarter.
While the upcoming flight will be the first out of Spaceport America, SpaceShipTwo flew to space twice in the past. As part of its preparations, the company trained its pilots using a ground-based simulator and its carrier aircraft VMS Eve, which has a very similar structure and controls to SpaceShipTwo. It also put the spacecraft through a bunch of pre—flight checks on the ground.