Virgin Galactic's second spacecraft just reached a major step in its production process.
On Tuesday, Richard Branson’s space travel company announced that all major structural elements of the spacecraft have been assembled and that the vehicle is capable of carrying its own weight. It reached its “Weight on Wheels” milestone much faster than Virgin Galactic’s first spacecraft, the VSS Unity, the company said in a statement.
Work on the spacecraft will now shift to connecting its flight systems before it is capable of ground testing and then, finally, test flights. The work will continue at Mojave Air & Space Port in California.
“We now have two spaceships which are structurally complete, with our third making good progress,” CEO George Whitesides said in a statement. “These spaceships are destined to provide thousands of private astronauts with a truly transformative experience by performing regular trips to space.’’
Although Virgin Galactic has not specified a date when it will launch its commercial flights, Branson said last year that he was aiming for 2020 takeoff. There have not been any updates to the contrary.
The VSS Unity has already been to space twice, once with a test passenger onboard.
Last year, the company moved 130 employees from California to New Mexico, where the commercial space flights are expected to take off.
When the flights take off, they’re likely to be high-profile. Among the people who have already signed up for their $250,000 tickets to space are Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Beiber. Passengers will visit the lowest levels of space where they will see the Earth’s curve and experience a few minutes of weightlessness before returning to the planet.