Suborbital space tourism provider Virgin Galactic announced Thursday (July 14) that it will build its next-generation Delta class spaceship at a manufacturing facility in Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix.
The Mesa plant could produce up to six spaceship per year and bring “hundreds of highly skilled aerospace engineering and manufacturing jobs to the area,” according to the company.
The Delta class spaceship is Virgin Galactic’s production vehicle that is designed to fly weekly, 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.
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The company, which just last week announced a deal to build a new set of carrier planes for the Delta spaceship, said that the newly leased facility could produce up to six spaceship a year and will bring hundreds of jobs to the area. The company aims to fly 400 space flights per year from Spaceport America beginning in late 2025.
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The Company is currently selecting various suppliers to build the spaceship major subassemblies, which will be delivered to the new Mesa facility for final assembly. Virgin Galactic motherships will ferry completed spaceship 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 Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier.
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“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.”
“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,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in the statement.
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Governor Doug Ducey praised the announcement on Twitter. “Another huge manufacturing win for Arizona, creating hundreds of jobs. The new facility in Mesa will be the final assembly point for commercial spaceship,” he said.
Virgin Galactic aims to ultimately launch up to 400 suborbital missions per year using two new spaceships and its growing fleet of Delta space planes. The new planes are expected to begin service in 2025 with “revenue payload flights,” Virgin Galactic said previously. The company has also said the Delta-class space planes should be ready to start flying paying customers in 2026.
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In Mesa, the company will assemble its next-generation Delta class spaceship, which Virgin Galactic refers to as its production vehicle designed to fly weekly into space from Spaceport America, its headquarters about 45 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic hasn’t flown a mission since then, however. The company is performing upgrade and maintenance work on Unity and Eve, which are the only operational spaceship and carrier plane, respectively, currently in Virgin Galactic’s fleet.
A ticket to fly with Virgin Galactic currently costs $450,000, up from a pre-Branson-flight level of $250,000. Virgin Galactic spaceship briefly reopened ticket sales twice to customers since last July, and earlier this year it said the waiting list stands at about 800 customers.
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“The company is currently selecting various suppliers to build the spaceship major subassemblies, which will be delivered to the new Mesa facility for final assembly,” according to the announcement.
Unlike a straight rocket ride to space, Virgin Galactic air-launches its customers. A carrier aircraft carries a spaceship aloft under its wings, until the pair reach an altitude of roughly 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). The space plane then drops free and turns on its onboard rocket motor to fly to suborbital space.
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Blue Origin, the biggest competitor to Virgin Galactic in suborbital space tourism, has flown five times to the final frontier with passengers on board. The first time was on July 20, 2021, with founder Jeff Bezos, his brother and several other passengers. Blue Origin’s most recent flight occurred on June 4. The company has not disclosed its ticket prices.