Space tourism may get a second chance as Virgin Galactic looks to get itself back on its feet following the crash of one of its experimental spacecraft over California’s Mojave Desert. The company hopes to start test flights again as early as summer 2015 by building a replacement ship, Virgin Galactic CEO, George Whitesides, told the Associated Press.
The new SpaceShipTwo, Serial Number Two is said to be 65 percent complete and construction behind it is expected to continue in the coming months. It will serve as a replacement for the first SpaceShipTwo, which crashed following the in-flight separation of the wings and body of the ship. The co-pilot was killed and the pilot was seriously injured as a result of the incident.
The National Transportation and Safety Board has yet to determine the cause of the crash, but is reportedly looking into a number of possibilities, including the premature deployment of a feathering mechanism, which controls the wings position for the ship’s re-entry.
Though the loss of SpaceShipTwo has been a setback for Virgin Galactic, the company expects to continue flight of White Knight Two, the mother ship that's used to bring SpaceShipTwo to its launch altitude. Once the replacement SpaceShipTwo is completed, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to review the ship to ensure a repeat accident doesn’t occur.
It’s unknown how much or how long the crash of SpaceShipTwo will set back Virgin Galactic, which plans to regularly send customers into space from a spaceport in New Mexico. Tickets for a trip on SpaceShipTwo are said to cost anywhere between $200,000 and $250,000. Some big name celebrities have reportedly booked flights on the ship, including Tom Hanks, Aston Kutcher and Tesla’s Elon Musk.