Virgin Galactic to return to space race; unveil new spaceship

MOJAVE, Calif. — Virgin Galactic is ready to rejoin the race to send passengers to space following a deadly crash in October 2014.

The company, owned by billionaire Richard Branson, will reveal its new SpaceShipTwo aircraft Friday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

The new aircraft takes the place of the company’s first one, which was also named SpaceShipTwo. It was destroyed when it crashed during a test flight over California’s Mojave Desert in 2014.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board later ruled the crash was caused by the co-pilot, who improperly activated the vehicle’s descent mechanism. He died in the crash. The pilot suffered serious injuries.

SpaceShipTwo will be similar to its predecessor: a six-passenger, two-winged space plane. But, the newest model will undergo more rigorous on-the-ground testing before it ever blasts off for space.

Virgin Galactic is one of several companies trying to commercialize spaceflight. Branson’s rivals in the privately funded space race include, Elon Musk (SpaceX) and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin).

Virgin Galactic hasn’t said when it plans to start its first set of flights for SpaceShipTwo. In a statement, the company said it wouldn’t “cut corners.”

The company already has hundreds of passengers who have signed up for the first SpaceShipTwo flights, including some celebrities.

Originally published at on February 19, 2016.