Jul 6, 2022
Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin Galactic”), an aerospace and space travel company, today announced an agreement with Aurora Flight Sciences (“Aurora”), 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.
Headquartered in Virginia, Aurora brings more than 30 years of experience building cutting-edge aircraft from concept to delivery and specializes 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 announced today will enable Aurora to immediately begin development.
Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Officer Michael Colglazier said: “Our next generation motherships are 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. 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.”
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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. This allows the Company’s in-house team to focus on complex and critical elements such as design, engineering and final assembly.
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.
“With Aurora, we are accessing the best of the nationwide aerospace ecosystem,” said Swami Iyer, President of Aerospace Systems. “As a subsidiary of the world’s largest aerospace company, Aurora has some of the industry’s top engineers and manufacturing facilities.”
Todd Citron, Boeing Chief Technology Officer and Vice President and General Manager of Boeing Research & Technology added: “Boeing is excited to contribute our culture of safety, our operational excellence, and our expertise in aircraft design and manufacturing to help advance human space travel.
Today’s announcement expands our collaboration with Virgin Galactic to accelerate transformative aerospace technologies.”
“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. The Company’s upcoming commercial missions are expected in Q1 2023.