May 09, 2013
Credit: MarsScientific.com/Clay Center Observatory
With the first powered flight of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital reusable human spacecraft out of the way, Virgin Galactic has named two pilots — one of them an experienced NASA astronaut — for its planned commercial operations.
Frederick (C.J.) Sturckow and Michael (Sooch) Masucci will report to Chief Pilot David Mackay at Virgin’s facility in Mojave, Calif., where the hybrid-fueled spaceplane is undergoing flight testing.
Sturckow, a retired Marine colonel, flew on four space shuttle missions to the International Space Station, and has more than 6,500 flight hours in more than 60 different aircraft.
Masucci, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, was previously with XOJET Inc., a private airline where he was a captain and check airman on the Citation X. He is a former U-2 pilot who has taught in the F-16, T-38 and gliders at the Air Force Test Pilot School.
In the first powered flight, a 16-sec. excursion that started when the first SpaceShipTwo was dropped from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft at almost 47,000 ft., pilots Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury were at the controls. Both work for Scaled Composites, which developed the space plane. As the company expands its flight envelope, Virgin said it expects its own pilots to help meet the test schedule.
In addition to Mackay, Sturckow and Masucci, Virgin’s roster of pilots includes Keith Colmer, who was recalled to active reserve duty after he was hired and “looks forward to returning to VG upon the completion of his current assignment,” the company said.