More than 700 customers have signed up to fly with Virgin Galactic, paying as much as $250,000 (€200,000) for a ticket. The loss of SpaceShipTwo on Oct. 31 has given even the most die-hard "Future Astronauts" an opportunity to reassess their decision. Virgin Galactic says about 3 percent of the customers, or roughly two dozen, have sought a refund so far.
The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the accident. Preliminary evidence shows that the rocket motor, which was initially suspected as the cause of the crash, was not to blame. A statement released by Virgin Galactic, citing the NTSB investigation, noted the intact engine and rocket propulsion fuel tanks. “This definitively dismisses the premature and inaccurate speculation that the problem was related to the engine or the fuel,” the statement read.
Sir Richard had pledged that SpaceShipTwo would take off with its first passengers in March next year. Previous planned inaugural flight dates had come and gone and the latest deadline will also be missed while investigators try to determine what went wrong.
A statutory investigation into the causes of the crash will take between six months and a year but in the meantime Virgin is expected to plough on with the completion of a second space rocket that uses the same design.
About 20 paid-up passengers have demanded their money back in the nine days since the crash.
Virgin Galactic on Saturday said it planned to continue with its space programme while pointing out that the 2007 test, which went wrong, was conducted by Scaled Composites.