spaceshipone
SpaceShipOne, the portotype for SpaceShipTwo. Image: cliff1066/Flickr/CC BY

An $8 million production facility for commercial spacecrafts has been completed in California’s Mojave desert. The facility will begin producing a fleet of passenger-ready spacecrafts starting at the end of September. The plant is expected to hire about 200 people.

A fleet of spaceships

The 68,000-square-foot Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hanger, or FAITH, facility belongs to The Spaceship Company, a joint venture between Scaled Composites, of California, and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. The company plans to build a fleet of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnight space vehicles, designed specifically for commercial travel.

No date has been announced for when those flights will begin, but it is expected they will launch from a site in New Mexico.

SpaceShipTwo

The SpaceShipTwo craft is based on a prototype, SapceShipOne, designed by Burt Rutan. That craft won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize. In 2004 it became the first privately financed craft to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.

SpaceShipTwo, however, has yet to be tested in a powered flight. At this point, all tests on the craft have been unpowered glider flights. Those key powered tests will be conducted later this year.

Plant open house held Monday

The plant was officially christened on Monday with a reception and tour of the facility. Hundreds of public officials and reporters attended the event.

Richard Branson said to those assembled:

“We’re extremely proud of the new FAITH building, which is the world’s first facility dedicated to producing private, commercial manned space vehicles. From this hangar, the talented team at The Spaceship Company will be at the forefront of making space access safe, reliable and affordable.”

Affordable space flight

Affordable is all relative. George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s CEO, told the Los Angeles Times said that space travelers can expect to spend $200,000 per ticket. According to Whitesides, more than 400 people have already paid for or put deposits down on advance tickets.

Perhaps when the industry becomes more competitive, prices will drop.

Sources

News About Space: http://www.news-about-space.org/space-exploration-news/cluster11414031/
KKTV: http://www.kktv.com/home/headlines/California_Desert_Spaceship_Factory_Completed_130199423.html
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/20/space-tourism-california_n_971741.html

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