Virgin Galactic announced a deal with Boeing to build a new set of carrier planes for the aerospace and space travel company to launch tourists in suborbital flights to space.
We are thrilled to partner with @VirginGalactic to design and build their next generation motherships. Aurora teams across the country are providing expertise in engineering design, advanced composite manufacturing, and more. Learn more here: https://t.co/m2fmMQTKwV pic.twitter.com/PV4mSwWTie— Aurora Flight Sciences (@AuroraFlightSci) July 6, 2022
Virgin Galactic has contracted the Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to build two new aircrafts designed to fly up to 200 times a year, the companies announced in a recent press release.
Aurora plans to manufacture the aircraft at its Columbus, Mississippi and Bridgeport, West Virginia facilities. Final assembly of the motherships will be completed at the Virgin Galactic facility in Mojave, California.
“Our next-generation motherships are integral to scaling our operations. They will be faster to produce, easier to maintain and will allow us to fly substantially more missions each year,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said.
The mothership is the air launch carrier aircraft in Virgin Galactic’s space flight system, that carries the spaceship to its release altitude of approximately 50,000 feet. Virgin Galactic said it has been working with Aurora for the past several months to develop design specifications as well as workforce and resource requirements in preparation for this long-term project.
With Aurora, we are accessing the best of the nationwide aerospace ecosystem. As a subsidiary of the world’s largest aerospace company, Aurora has some of the industry’s top engineers and manufacturing facilities.Swami Iyer, President of Aerospace Systems
2. First crewed flight
Last year, Virgin Galactic completed its first fully crewed spaceflight with Richard Branson on board. The company’s CEO and his crewmates flew on the company’s VSS Unity space plane, which was lofted by the carrier aircraft VMS Eve.
No new suborbital flights have been conducted by the aerospace company since then with Virgin Galactic having opted to perform maintenance and upgrade work on the two existing aircrafts — Unity and Eve — the only operational carrier plane and spaceship, respectively, currently in the company’s fleet.
3. Waiting list
Since the July 2021 flight, Virgin Galactic briefly reopened ticket sales twice to customers, increasing prices from $250,000 to $450,000. As of November 2021, Virgin Galactic had reported 700 or so customers in its pool, and earlier this year it reported 800 customers in the waiting list.
After reaching nearly 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), Virgin Galactic’s space plane — Eve — is released from the carrier aircraft — Unity — and drops for a moment before igniting its rocket motor. It shuts off once it reaches space, providing passengers with silence, weightlessness and a view of Earth below. The rocket ship then glides back to the spaceport runway.
“Boeing is excited to contribute our culture of safety, our operational excellence, and our expertise in aircraft design and manufacturing to help advance human space travel,” said Todd Citron, Boeing Chief Technology Officer and Vice President and General Manager of Boeing Research & Technology.