Virgin Galactic's fleet is expanding, and its second commercial spacecraft just achieved a key milestone in its build process -- much faster than the first of its SpaceShipTwo vehicles did. The new SpaceShipTwo, which will join the original (named "VSS Unity") in providing flights to space for paying tourists, is now supporting its own weight -- a key achievement in the overall assembly of the vehicle.
This new SpaceShipTwo has yet to be named, but it's about 80% complete at this stage. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic is also flight testing VSS Unity, and it's already begun construction on a third spacecraft to further expand its fleet -- that one's about 50% done and under construction alongside this second vehicle in the company's Mojave, Calif. headquarters.
Next up for this second spacecraft is connecting all of the integrated systems that provide flight control, power, altitude adjustment and more. This has all come together much faster than with the original spacecraft thanks largely to improvements in the efficiency of the build process, including making use of a lot of modular components, which Virgin anticipates will help bend the cost curve even further going forward, making expanding the fleet more cost-effective as Virgin Galactic aims for profitability in 2021, and eventually hopes to reduce the cost of tickets for space tourists.