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Boeing subsidiary to build two new Virgin Galactic motherships

Boeing subsidiary to build two new Virgin Galactic motherships
Virgin Galactic confirmed Wednesday it is retaining Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to build two next generation motherships. Photo courtesy of Virgin Galactic

July 6 (UPI) -- Virgin Galactic confirmed Wednesday it is retaining Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to build two next generation motherships, the company announced on Wednesday.

The agreement calls for the first ship to enter service in 2025, the same year Virgin Galactic's first Delta-class spaceship is expected to begin revenue payload flights.

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They represent the spaceflight company's next generation of motherships and are expected to be able to fly up to 200 launches per year, Virgin said in a statement.

A mothership serves as 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.

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Aurora has been working with edge aircraft from concept to delivery and specializes in novel aircraft configurations and complex composites.

The company has been around for 30 years and has been working with Virgin Galactic over the past several months to develop design specifications, it said.

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"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," Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Officer Michael Colglazier said in a statement.

"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."

Virgin Galactic was founded by British billionaire Richard Branson. In July, the 71-year-old became the first owner of a private space company to fly into space.

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Branson's flight aboard the Virgin Galactic VSS Unity spaceship launched from New Mexico's private Spaceport America.

Unity is one of two spacecraft currently in the company's fleet, with VSS Imagine as the other.

Branson remains Virgin Galactic's largest shareholder with a stake worth nearly $600 million.

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