The pieces are finally starting to come together for Virgin Galactic’s space tourism — the company has flown SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America for the first time. It was just a glide test from 50,000 feet up, but the flight let the spaceport fulfill its intended purpose and gave pilots familiarity with the New Mexico airspace. This will also help Virgin compare performance against similar maneuvers from earlier tests.
And before you ask: yes, Virgin took steps to keep crews safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. It reworked operational elements to keep people apart, and required “universal” mask usage.
There are still more test flights in the pipeline. Even so, this nudges Virgin considerably closer to its goal of taking paying passengers into space. The company is certainly under pressure to get things up and running quickly. Its financial situation has been rough for a while, and it won’t turn around until customers get what they’re paying for.