The transition shouldn't present many, if any, hiccups for Scaled, which was hired in 2004 by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic to build a commercial version of SpaceShipOne for passenger travel. Scaled unveiled the new ship in December and has begun test-flights in Mojave. If all goes well, customers could begin flying by the end of next year.
Rutan was grappling with medical issues during much of SpaceShipTwo's development, so others at Scaled took the lead in the vehicle's creation. It'll be interesting to see if and how the team extends Rutan's vision into the future, such as his dream of a spaceplane that can travel in orbit.
Rutan began working in California's Antelope Valley more than 45 years ago as a flight test project engineer for the Air Force, Scaled said in its press release.
He founded Rutan Aircraft Factory in 1974 to develop experimental aircraft for hobbyists.
"Burt is known worldwide as a legendary genius in aircraft design in the aviation world. I am very fortunate and proud to have worked by his side for the past 28 years," Scaled president Doug Shane, said in a statement. "We wish Burt and his wife, Tonya, the very best the future holds for them."
Image: Burt Rutan inside the cabin of SpaceShipTwo at Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif. Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenerg.