Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo suborbital craft is the cover star of the 12 June issue of Flight International as Sir Richard Branson's venture moves towards its first passenger services next year. As part of a special feature package on the future of space travel, we examine the final steps Virgin Galactic must take before its long-awaited commercial launch. The feature includes a stunning graphic by Gareth Burgess.
Also in the package are a look at the future of the USA's two main large expendable launch vehicles, the Atlas V and the Delta IV, as well as an update on the ambitions of the newer space players: China, India, Japan, Indonesia and Iran among them. In a more futuristic vein, we get our heads around a science fiction-inspired concept for beam-powered travel to the stars. And we ask whether reusable launch systems can fulfill the dream of low-cost orbital operations.
Elsewhere in the issue: Boeing's plan to upgrade its 747-8, how Eclipse is back in manufacturing and why the garments worn by F-22 pilots could be the cause of the fifth-generation fighter's oxygen problems.
We also take a detailed look at the strategy of military maintenance specialist Marshall Aerospace, Embraer's exploration of a common wing for its re-engined E-Jet family and Northrop Grumman's offer of an "Polar Hawk" version of the RQ-4B unmanned air vehicle.