Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the title of Enrico Palermo.
Inside Access, only on CNN Business, goes behind the scenes of the world’s most innovative companies. The multimedia series went inside Richard Branson’s Virgin empire and premiered live from Mojave, California, on November 30, 2018.
Four years ago, a co-pilot was killed during a Virgin Galactic test flight. The tragedy left the future in doubt for the space tourism company and derailed its plans to begin commercial flights to the edge of space.
Hundreds of people had already reserved tickets that cost between $200,000 and $250,000. Some people lost their nerve and canceled their reservations.
But over the last few years, Virgin Galactic has righted itself. It has debuted an upgraded design of its rocket-powered plane, SpaceShipTwo, the first of which is called VSS Unity. Pilots conducted its first powered test flights earlier this year — the strongest indication yet that the company is nearing commercial operations.
“I’ve been so proud of the [Virgin Galactic] team, how they’ve responded to [the tragedy] and really moved forward with a sense of urgency,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides told CNN Business’ Rachel Crane.
“We’re about to enter into sort of the highest and fastest part of our flight test program,” he said. Galactic will conduct test flights that reach its goal altitude, more than 50 miles above Earth. “Then we’ll be in a position where we could be doing commercial service,” Whitesides said.