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Virgin Galactic’s second spaceship completes major build milestone

Stephen Kuper

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has announced a “Weight on Wheels” milestone for the companys second commercial spacecraft as the company prepares to launch.

Virgin Galactic’s second spaceship completes major build milestone
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In this milestone, all major structural elements of the vehicle were assembled, and the vehicle deployed its main landing gear and carried its own weight for the first time.

The milestone signals strong progress in the manufacture of Virgin Galactic’s space vehicle fleet by The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic Holdings’ wholly owned aerospace development subsidiary.

This Weight on Wheels milestone has been reached considerably faster than it took to get to this stage with the first spaceship in the Virgin Galactic fleet, VSS Unity, which is currently in flight test.

This pace has been achieved through a more efficient, modular assembly process, as well as experience curve benefits.

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George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said, “Reaching the Weight on Wheels milestone considerably faster than was achieved for VSS Unity is a huge accomplishment and is a testament to the growing expertise and capabilities of the company.”

With the spaceship now capable of bearing its own weight, the assembly team is hard at work connecting the vehicle’s integrated systems, including the flight control systems from fuselage to tail booms, as well as completing the final structural closeouts.

As this work is completed, the spaceship will be positioned in the hangar for the start of integrated vehicle ground testing, which will verify the integrity of all systems.

“We now have two spaceships that are structurally complete, with our third making good progress. These spaceships are destined to provide thousands of private astronauts with a truly transformative experience by performing regular trips to space,” Whitesides added. 

This step is a precursor to the start of its flight test program.

Beyond today’s Weight on Wheels milestone for the second space vehicle, the Virgin Galactic spaceship fleet is already advancing to its third spaceship, also currently under construction in Mojave. Structural and system part fabrication for that third vehicle is now over 50 per cent complete.

Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. is a vertically integrated aerospace company pioneering human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers. It believes the commercial exploration of space represents one of the most exciting and significant technology initiatives of our time.

It is embarking on this commercial exploration journey with a mission to put humans into space and return them safely to earth on a routine, consistent and affordable basis.

Using its proprietary and reusable technologies, and supported by a distinctive, Virgin-branded customer experience, it is developing a spaceflight system designed to offer customers a unique, multi-day experience culminating in a spaceflight that includes several minutes of weightlessness and views of Earth from space.

It is in the final stages of development, having already completed multiple crewed flights of its vehicle into space, and anticipates initial commercial launch in 2020.

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