Virgin Galactic says a new manufacturing facility it has leased will enable the aerospace and space travel company to construct up to six of its new Delta class spaceships annually.
The latest announcement comes 12 months (to the week) since Virgin Group Founder, Sir Richard Branson, made global fanfare when he was launched into space with five other crew aboard VSS Unity on 11 July 2021.
Located in Mesa, in the Greater Phoenix area of Arizona – and adjacent to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport – the new hub is currently under construction. Virgin Galactic expects to be fully operational at its final assembly plant by the end of 2023. The facility will create hundreds of aerospace engineering and manufacturing jobs to the region.
Virgin Galactic’s Delta class production spaceship is designed to operate on a weekly rotation, supporting the Company’s target of 400 flights per year from Spaceport America.
Based on current schedules, the first of these ships is expected to commence revenue-generating payload flights in late 2025, progressing to private astronaut flights in 2026, Virgin Galactic said.
Various suppliers are currently being contracted to build the spaceship’s major subassemblies, which will be delivered to the new Mesa facility for final assembly. Virgin Galactic motherships will then ferry completed spaceships to Spaceport America, New Mexico for flight test and commercial operation.
“Our spaceship final assembly factory is key to accelerating the production of our Delta fleet, enabling a rapid increase in flight capacity that will drive our revenue growth,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO Virgin Galactic. “We’re thrilled to expand into the greater Phoenix area which is home to outstanding aerospace talent – and we look forward to growing our team and fleet at our new facility.”
Swami Iyer, Virgin Galactic’s President of Aerospace Systems said, “Arizona is a growing innovation hub, geographically situated between our existing operations in Southern California and New Mexico. This will allow us to accelerate progress from conceptual design to production to final assembly at scale as we capitalise on the many advantages Mesa and the greater Phoenix area offer.”
Last week, Virgin Galactic confirmed that Boeing subsidiary, Aurora Flight Sciences, had been chosen as the design and manufacturing partner of the company’s next-generation motherships, which are the vehicles that will be used to carry the new Delta class spaceships to their launch altitude. The first of which is expected to be delivered in 2025.