Virgin Galactic has announced that the upcoming flight test of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle will be postponed by over two months due to technical problems, as part of a revised flight test schedule that will push space tourist flights to the year 2022.
Business executives attributed an unsuccessful flight test of the SpaceShipTwo on December 12 on the electromagnetic interference (EMI), which prompted a flight computer to restart just as the spacecraft activated its hybrid rocket engine, in an earnings report on February 25 timed to the announcement of its fourth-quarter as well as the full-year 2020 financial statements. The spacecraft landed safely at Spaceport America, situated in New Mexico.
According to Mike Moses, the possible cause of raised EMI levels, who serves as the president of Virgin Galactic, is a modern flight control computer program. To prevent a repeated reboot, the firm took measures to protect modules from the intrusion and is preparing a powered flight test as soon as February 13. However, technicians found continued EMI problems with vehicle programs in the final moments of preparations.
“We found some odd variations in some of the sensor readings — pressures as well as temperatures, for example — which suggested that EMI was still present and probably in systems we hadn’t anticipated,” he added. The company is currently working on a change to the flight control device that is triggering the EMI. Before restarting test launches, the improvement will be checked in the lab as well as on the vehicle itself in the upcoming days. The powered flight test is now scheduled to take place in May, according to the company.
Virgin Galactic’s CEO, Michael Colglazier, stated the organization is keeping to the test flight system it unveiled last fall. The May flight will be accompanied by two more: which included one with two pilots as well as a “full cabin” of company employees to test the vehicle’s passenger cabin, and one with firm founder Richard Branson on board to evaluate the vehicle’s passenger cabin. Colglazier stated the company hadn’t confirmed exact dates for the flights exactly, but both are expected to happen this summer.
A trip for the Italian Air Force will proceed, fulfilling a deal made in October 2019. The flight will transport a range of research payloads as well as 3-Italian payload experts, as well as bringing revenue to the business. “This flight will probably take place in the late summer or even early fall,” Colglazier stated, adding that it will produce profits for the business and “will end our product testing program.”