Virgin Galactic has revealed that it has completed a major milestone in the manufacture of the company’s third SpaceShipTwo spaceplane. The as yet unnamed spaceplane will operate alongside the VSS Unity from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
In a September 17 press release, The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s aerospace-system manufacturing subsidiary, announced it had mated the fuselage and cabin of its third SpaceShipTwo spaceplane to the completed wing assembly. With the completition of this major milestone, engineers were able to move on to fitting the two tails booms to the spaceplane’s “rear feather flap assembly.”
With the competition of these two major manufacturing milestones, The Spaceship Company has taken a major step forward in completing a third operational SpaceShipTwo spaceplane.
“Our passionate and talented team has made great progress on the next SpaceShipTwo. Seeing VSS Unity adjacent to the assembly of the next vehicle as well as the cabin of our third spaceship makes it very clear that we are building a fleet of remarkable spaceplanes for commercial service,” said Enrico Palermo, President of The Spaceship Company.
Currently Virgin Galactic is hoping to begin commercial flights before the end of the year. A ticket aboard one of the company’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplanes will cost at least $250,000. Despite the price, Virgin Galactic has already amassed a backlog of more than 600 passengers. As a result, anyone looking to buy a ticket today will likely have to wait months if not years for their flight.
A typical flight of a SpaceShipTwo will see the spaceplane carried to an altitude of around 15,000 meters (50,000 feet) aboard the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. It will then be released and its onboard rocket motors fired blasting the vehicle up to the edge of space. Passengers aboard the spaceplane will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and an out of this world view of Earth.