What We Learned About Virgin Galactic's Commercial Space Program
What Will The Future Fleet Look Like?
The spaceflight system currently consists of two vehicles: “SpaceShipTow,” a two pilot and six-passenger suborbital spaceplane, and the twin-hull, four-engine mother ship. Caballer says eventually, “The terminal in New Mexico will hill hold two mother ships and up to five spaceships.” The spaceships are currently in production in Mojave, and will be delivered “in the very near future.”
Why New Mexico?
New Mexico will be the first operating location to launch the commercial space line, or what they call the “Gateway To Space.” They chose New Mexico during the bidding process because of the land infrastructure and right airspace, similar to their location in Mojave, California. They plan to expand to other space ports, already in discussion.
How Many Flights Will Happen?
In New Mexico, Virgin Galactic will have flights once or twice a month. Once the program ramps up, the team would like to have flights happen once or twice a week at full-rate operation.
How Does The Maintenance Compare To Aircraft?
Hours and cycles are tracked the same, and the lifecycle of one space system is understood at about 10 years. Still in the early stages of determining how these systems will perform, the team does know that fair weather operations limit incidental damage but things like bird strikes are still an issue.
Pedro Caballer, spaceline technical operations director for Virgin Galactic, spoke at MRO Americas on April 25 about Virgin Galactic’s Commercial Space Transportation program.