Virgin Galactic has struck an agreement with Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, to partner in the design and manufacturing of the Company’s next-generation motherships.
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.
Aurora brings more than 30 years of experience building cutting-edge aircraft from concept to delivery and specialises in novel aircraft configurations and complex composites. Virgin Galactic 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. The two-vehicle contract will enable Aurora to immediately begin development.
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The new motherships will be an evolution, rather than redesign, of current mothership Eve, taking the existing model and making a production version designed for high-frequency commercial operations, Virgin Galactic said.
Michael Colglazier, CEO Virgin Galactic said these next-generation motherships will be “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,” Colglazier remarked.
“Supported by the scale and strength of Boeing, Aurora is the ideal manufacturing partner for us as we build our fleet to support 400 flights per year at Spaceport America.”
Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing strategy is designed to leverage third-party suppliers to improve efficiency, access new innovation and technology, and tap into existing highly skilled labor pools.
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.
“This partnership between Aurora and Virgin Galactic brings together teams that share a passion for aerospace, innovation, and exploration,” said Per Beith, Aurora President and CEO. “Aurora’s decades of experience in aircraft design, composite manufacturing, and vehicle integration, coupled with our world-class engineers and manufacturing technicians, enables us to provide the unique expertise and capabilities necessary to complete these next-generation aircraft. We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to support Virgin Galactic’s mission to pioneer space travel.”
The first new mothership is expected to enter service in 2025, the same year Virgin Galactic’s first Delta-class spaceship is expected to begin revenue payload flights.