(ORDO NEWS) — Virgin Galactic has announced a partnership with a Boeing subsidiary to produce the next generation of twin-body aircraft used to lift the space tourism company’s rocket ship.
Aurora Flight Sciences will build two dedicated carrier aircraft at its facilities in Mississippi and West Virginia.
Each of the aircraft will be designed for 200 launches per year. The company has repeatedly pushed back the launch date for paying customers, and commercial service is now expected to begin in 2023.
Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said next-generation motherships will be an integral part of the company’s expansion.
After reaching an altitude of nearly 15,000 meters, the Virgin Galactic spaceplane separates from its carrier aircraft and crashes momentarily before igniting its rocket engine.
After reaching space, it shuts off, providing passengers with silence, weightlessness and a view of the Earth below. The rocket ship then glides back towards the spaceport’s runway.
It’s been almost a year since Virgin Galactic launched founder Richard Branson and five of his employees to the edge of space as the British entrepreneur raced to outrun billionaire Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin rocket company.
Just weeks after the flight, Virgin Galactic reopened ticket sales, with prices starting at $450,000 per seat. By autumn, the company had postponed a planned research flight with Italian media representatives and began scheduled evaluation and maintenance of its aircraft.
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