Virgin Galactic's space vehicle fleet is swiftly progressing as its second commercial spaceship completes a major build milestone faster than it took to get to this stage with its first spaceship, VSS Unity.
The momentous event is the “Weight on Wheels” – a significant milestone in the build of any airplane or any spaceship as it signifies that all major structural elements of the vehicle have been assembled, that the vehicle has deployed its main landing gear and carried its own weight for the first time.
With the spaceship now capable of bearing its own weight, this now paves the way forward for the vehicle’s integrated systems, including the flight control systems from fuselage to tail booms, and the final structural closeouts to be completed ahead of vehicle ground testing.
Once ground testing in the hangar is finished, its flight test program will begin.
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.”
A more efficient, modular assembly process, as well as experience curve benefits were reported as the reasons behind the swift progress of this second build.
Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic boss Richard Branson took to Twitter to congratulate the team behind the build. “Congratulations to the team as the second spaceship in @VirginGalactic's fleet completes a major build milestone.”
But the fleet is not stopping there. Virgin Galactic’s wholly-owned aerospace development subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, has already made a start on the fleet’s third spaceship and so far have completed over 50 percent of the structural and system part fabrication at their base in Mojave.
“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 says.
Virgin Galactic has at present, over 600 customers around the world that are signed up to fly onboard Spaceship Two, but the company expects this number to rise substantially – possibly into the tens of thousands – as people get a taste for flying to the edge of space.