Virgin Galactic has announced an agreement with Boeing-owned Aurora Flight Sciences to develop and manufacture two next-generation motherships. The motherships are supposed to take the Virgin Galactic spacecraft to an altitude of 15 km, where they will turn on the rocket engines and take off above 90 km.
Richard Branson’s company hopes to receive the first of two ships in 2025. It currently has a single carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, which made its maiden flight in 2008. This is reported in press release. Virgin has not announced how much longer it will be able to fly or what repairs it will need as it begins flying more frequently.
“Mother 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,” says the company’s CEO, Michael Colglazier.
It is believed that 400 flights per year will allow Virgin Galactic to reach profitability. However, this goal is still a long way off. The VSS Unity spacecraft has not flown since July 2021 and will not return to service until at least the fourth quarter of this year.
During the first quarter of this year, the company announced a loss of $93 million. The problem is not the demand for services – hundreds of customers have made a deposit to fly into space on the company’s ships. Currently, Virgin Galactic cannot meet this demand with a fleet that is making far fewer flights than expected.
To meet demand, the company is building a new generation of Delta spacecraft. The first such ship is due to begin flying with a payload in 2025 – the same time as the first mother ship arrives.