By Gavin Gibbon
Virgin Galactic's first commercial flight into space is scheduled to take place in 2020
Mubadala-backed Virgin Galactic Holdings has taken another giant leap towards the first commercial space flight after reaching the “weight on wheels” milestone in the construction of its second spaceship.
It means all major structural elements of the vehicle have been assembled at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California; it has deployed its main landing gear and is able to carry its own weight for the first time.
Virgin Galactic’s first spaceship, VSS Unity, is currently in flight test, having been to space twice already; while a third spaceship is under construction in Mojave.
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said: “Reaching the ‘weight on wheels’ milestone considerably faster than was achieved for VSS Unity is a huge accomplishment and is a testament to the growing expertise and capabilities of the company.
We've reached the Weight on Wheels milestone in the build of our next spaceship considerably faster than it took to get to this stage with our first spaceship, VSS Unity, which is currently in flight test. Our third spaceship is making good progress too! https://t.co/xwzQgeUfoT pic.twitter.com/6RWbyqiScU— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) January 8, 2020
“We now have two spaceships that are structurally complete, with our third making good progress. These spaceships are destined to provide thousands of private astronauts with a truly transformative experience by performing regular trips to space.”
Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments, now under Mubadala, acquired a 31.8 percent stake in Virgin Galactic in 2010.
Although no exact date has been given for the launch of the first commercial flight into space, Virgin Galactic has previously said the maiden mission would take place in 2020.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. became the first space-tourism business to go public when it began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in October 2019.
The deal, carried out through a merger with shell investment company that was already trading, gave Virgin Galactic a market value of about $2.4 billion, the company said.