Updated: Jan 11
This week Virgin Galactic announced that fabrication has been completed on the wings, fuselage, cabin, nose and feather flap structures of their second Spaceship Two vehicle and the cabin has been mated with the rest of the fuselage.
The newest vehicle will enter service after the VSS Unity, currently undergoing rigorous ground and flight testing. According to a company press release, wing systems integration has also been completed. Virgin Galactic is utilizing a modular build style where the cabin, fuselage, wing and feather assemblies are all built in parallel, employing Design For Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA) techniques. DFMA allows for earlier systems integration and shorter build times.
Based in Mojave, California, The Spaceship Company (the manufacturing arm of Virgin Galactic) plans on building a fleet of carrier “motherships” and spaceships for the company’s Las Cruces, New Mexico Spaceport America operation. Currently, a third spaceship vehicle is also under construction by the Mojave team. In the announcement, The Spaceship Company President Enrico Palermo stated,
"Our passionate and talented team has made great progress on the next SpaceShip Two. 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.”
The feather flap assembly for the second SpaceShip Two, which moves the booms into the “feathered” position required for stable re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, has also reached an advanced development stage. Early deployment of this critical component by test Co-pilot Michael Alsbury on the VSS Enterprise in 2014, resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Alsbury, serious injuries to test Pilot Peter Siebold, and loss of the vehicle.
This major milestone isn’t the only progress Virgin Galactic has made recently. Last August the company opened the stunning new Gateway to Space building at Spaceport America in New Mexico, which houses both spaceflight operations and has communal space for future Virgin Galactic customer-astronauts. The first floor of the building has been named Gaia, representing departure and return, and is a meeting place for customers and family members to interact with Virgin Galactic professionals including pilots, engineers and mission control specialists. The second floor is called Cirrus (representing air, light and flight) and houses Mission Control, the Mission Briefing Room, the Pilot Corps, and the Flight Operations team. The Gateway to Space hangar currently houses the VMS (Virgin Mother Ship) Eve and has room for an additional carrier and five spaceships. According to the company website, Virgin Galactic still plans on launching commercial spaceflight in 2020.
Source: Virgin Galactic