The end of technical tests is now in effect; next step, the establishment of business operations.
Mike Moses, president of Virgin Galactic, recently spoke to TechCrunch about the company’s future. What to know a little more about the plans of the red stable for its future fleet of spaceships.
We learn that the test in which Richard Branson took part marks the end of the so-called “envelope” tests for the Virgin Galactic (VG) aircraft. These examinations, where engineers examine the trajectory, aerodynamics and handling of the machine, will give way to more “operational” control; the following flights will thus be used to carry out various tests at the cabin level and to set up training protocols for the passengers. These components will be tested during three test flights scheduled for this summer.
Laying the foundations for commercial activity
They will precede a crucial step, called the “modifying phase” by Moses. During this period, the Virgin Galactic ship will be upgraded so that it can increase the frequency of flights. “At the moment, we fly quite rarely because we inspect everything carefully. We’re going to want to start ramping up soon, but we already know that will go through some changes. We do not yet have a timetable for the end of this stage ”. An essential step indeed; even though it has proven to work, the Unity ship is still in the proof-of-concept state, rather than a commercial out-of-the-box vehicle.
Moses does not specify what specific modifications are planned on the machine. However, he explains that the majority of them will be used for facilitate the maintenance of the object. The addition of judiciously placed access hatches will, for example, greatly reduce the time required for the inspection, essential before each flight and test. Anything but negligible, since each device is designed to achieve “Several hundred flights”.
Because to achieve its goal of flying more often without sacrificing safety, VG will have to manage a entire fleet of commercial vessels. This involves developing, testing and maintaining not only the machines, but also all of the protocols that go with them. Ultimately, these procedures will also condition the commercial success of the program than the ships themselves.
A policy of small steps assumed
For the moment, VG does not yet have this fleet and does not intend to rush. “I think our mantra is going to be the politics of baby steps”, confie Moses. “We are not going to attempt to reach these high flight frequencies just yet. We want to increase the number of flights gradually. It is a little bit the raison d’être of Unity today; we p: put to explore these operational rates, and see where we can save time when we have additional ships. ”
This necessarily implies that the commercial income from these flights will not be there right away. But what does it matter to Moses: better to move forward cautiously than to mortgage the whole program while sweating on the potential profits. “In terms of income, it’s almost the same; It doesn’t matter much to us whether we have 8, 10, or 12 flights. But in terms of operational learning, this is a significant difference”.