Virgin Galactic Flies Dress Rehearsal for Next Powered Flight, Todd Ericson PIC of WhiteKnightTwo
On Thursday August 28th, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo took to the skies again with the new metallic, reflective coatings to its wings that it has been sporting since the third powered flight in January. The SpaceShip has gotten some upgrades since then, and returned to flight earlier this summer.
Thursday's glide flight was a "cold-flow" test designed to make sure all the oxidizer will flow smoothly out of the tank (but without lighting the motor). It is a precursor to Powered Flight 4 (or PF04 in the lingo) that is expected to fly soon.
On July 27th, Galactic added Todd "Leif" Ericson, a distinguished Air Force Colonel and F-16 pilot, to their pilot team, bringing them up to four pilots. This gives them a full complement of pilots for when they take over full operation of SpaceShipTwo from Scaled Composites. Todd recently passed his FAA check ride to fly as pilot-in-command of WhiteKnight Two and was the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) of WhiteKnightTwo for this Thursday's flight.
The flight seemed to go well and was a good opportunity for the pilots and operations team to build additional flight ops experience, especially now that WhiteKnightTwo operations have been turned over to Virgin from Scaled. Scaled pilots Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury brought in SpaceShipTwo to a safe landing.
The team has been working hard to make all this happen and when I go to visit, I am humbled by how much it takes to make this all work. It certainly has earned the title Rocket Science and I am very grateful that we have such a brilliant and hard-working team on the job. Every milestone is a victory and I don't take any of it for granted. I appreciate the love and support we get from the community, it makes the job just a little bit easier. (Especially when you get home from work at 5pm and have to go back in at midnight to start operations for a test flight day!)