Virgin Galactic, the main tenant at Spaceport America in New Mexico, may be flying humans into space before Christmas.
The spaceport sits north of Las Cruces and has seen hundreds of vertical launches but no commercial flights yet from Virgin Galactic.
The remaining 2018 flights will be crewed, but it won’t be tourists yet. They’re still moving forward with their testing phases before commercial flights take off from Spaceport America.
Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Galactic, said Friday morning the company was on track to send humans to space, but it will still be test pilots running operations out of the Mojave Spaceport in California.
“They’ll finish their performance flights, their reliability flights out of Mojave, they’ll finish all their testing they need to do there and get their certification from the FAA to take humans into space,” said Dan Hicks, the Spaceport America CEO.
Those certifications are crucial before Virgin Galactic are able to load people into their new ships and take them beyond earth.
“They’ll move here to Spaceport America and we’ll be able to start our operations to be able to take astronauts up into space, researchers up into space sometime later next year,” Hicks said.
While Virgin Galactic continues to grow their workforce at the Spaceport and in southern New Mexico, the bulk of preparations are in California labs.
“The experience, the engineers are already there at Mojave. It made too much sense for them not to continue the spaceship company they started there, they brought it all in house since the capability was already at Mojave at that time,” Hicks said.
Development is at Mojave but operations will be out of Spaceport America north of Las Cruces.
Commercial flights are expected to begin sometime in 2019.
Boeing is currently running crew capsule tests out of the spaceport.