Virgin Galactic has announced it has reached a significant milestone in the manufacture of its next spaceship.
According to the company, the team have successfully mated the fuselage and cabin of its next spaceship to the completed wing assembly. In addition, the two tail booms have been mated to the spaceship's rear feather flap assembly.
The completion of these two jobs brings assembly of the next SpaceShipTwo, planned to enter service after VSS Unity, a major step forward, the company says.
With the part fabrication of the wing, fuselage, cabin, nose and feather flap, primary structures is now complete for the second commercial spaceship.
In addition, the majority of systems integration for the wing is complete, as well as the build of the cabin crew station installation.
SpaceShipTwo vehicles are assembled in a modular fashion, with the cabin, fuselage, wing and feather assemblies built in parallel.
Employing Design For Manufacturability and Assembly (DFMA) techniques, this approach grants easier access for systems integration earlier in the build process, as well as an overall shorter assembly duration, Virgin says.
Virgin Galactic established operations in Mojave, through its development and manufacturing arm, The Spaceship Company, to build and assemble a fleet of spaceships and carrier aircraft for the Virgin Galactic operations in New Mexico.
The company states that while VSS Unity continues to progress through its ground and flight testing programme, and is now preparing for its move to Spaceport America in New Mexico, the Mojave-based team has been building two additional SpaceShipTwos.
The Spaceship Company president Enrico Palermo, says, “Our passionate and talented team has made great progress on the next SpaceShipTwo. Seeing VSS Unity adjacent to the assembly of the next vehicle as well as the cabin of our third spaceship makes it very clear that we are building a fleet of remarkable spaceplanes for commercial service.
Before mating the two assemblies, the metrology team used laser trackers to capture precise measurements of the fuselage and cabin and the wing. These measurements confirmed that the assemblies would come together as they were designed to, Virgin states.
In parallel to this operation, the feather assembly is taking shape with the inboard skins being bonded to the boom internal structures and then rotated vertical and mounted on the feather flap assembly. The feather flap assembly is responsible for moving the spaceship's booms into the feathered position used for stable re-entry through Earth's atmosphere.
Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company CEO George Whitesides says, “It is exciting to imagine these two vehicles operating shoulder-to-shoulder from Spaceport America in New Mexico. We have a strong block design which we believe we can replicate to build the remainder of the fleet, continuing our march toward commercial service.