Virgin Galactic signs lease for Arizona manufacturing facility

Virgin Galactic is expanding its operations to help with the production of its Delta-class spacecraft of the next generation.

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Aerospace giant Boeing has signed a lease with a long-term term for a brand new final assembly plant located in Mesa, Arizona, which can produce up to six spacecraft per year. It will also provide hundreds of qualified jobs in the Phoenix region.

Concept art for Virgin Galactic’s Mesa, Arizona manufacturing facility (Virgin Galactic)

The facility is currently under construction and will be scheduled to be operational by the end of 2023. The details of the lease’s financials weren’t disclosed.

Based on the current schedules the Delta-class fleet is scheduled to start payload flights that generate revenue in late 2025. Private spacecraft flights in 2026.

Virgin Galactic, plans to fly its Delta-class spacecraft every week and has set a goal for 400 flights a year from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

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Alongside establishing manufacturing capabilities for its Delta-class fleet of aircraft, Virgin Galactic has signed an agreement with Boeing affiliate Aurora Sciences to build two new motherships that can be capable of carrying up to 200 launches annually.

It will be constructed at Aurora’s manufacturing facilities located in Columbus, Mississippi, and Bridgeport, West Virginia, with final assembly occurring in Virgin Galactic’s Mojave, California, facility. The first mothership of the new model is scheduled to be operational in 2025.

The announcements come at a time when Virgin Galactic has delayed commercial service until the beginning of the quarter of 2023 because of problems with supply chain management and labor.

The month of February was when Virgin Galactic began selling commercial space flight tickets open to the public for $450,000 per seat. Customers must pay an initial $150,000 deposit in order to secure their seats. The deposit of around $25,000 will not be refunded.

Before the hike, it was a matter of $200,000 and $250,000 per flight. Virgin Galactic has approximately 800 reservations for commercial spaceflights.

The rocket plane that is carrying Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and crew members launch at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Saturday, July 11 2021. ((AP Photo/Andres Leighton) / AP Newsroom)

Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier spoke to analysts on the company’s earnings call in the first quarter on May 1 that the firm has made “good progress” on enhancements to its VSS Unity spaceplane as well as its VMS Eve mothership. The upgrades are designed to allow higher frequency flights for commercial services.

A second test flight of VSS Unity is currently on schedule to take place in the 4th quarter of 2022. In the meantime, the second spacecraft, VSS Imagine, will begin its first test flight during the first quarter of 2023. It’s anticipated to start commercial service by mid-2023. When Unity and Imagine have both been flying commercial space flights, Virgin Galactic expects to fly into space three times per month.

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