As the countdown continues toward a future of space flight for the traveling public, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc (NYSE: SPCE) on Wednesday announced a key milestone toward the completion of its second spaceship.
Virgin Galactic announced the ship is now “Weight on Wheels,” meaning the main parts of the vehicle are assembled and on the landing gear.
"It's a huge milestone, "Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an interview on CNBC. “To get to the point where all the major structural assemblies are put together and she's resting on her own landing gear was a great moment for the whole team."
Good Progress For Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic has already launched one spaceship, the Unity. Whitesides says the company plans to have five by 2023 and is making "good progress" toward that goal. The company's own subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, is building the ships.
The company is aiming to eventually send members of the public - space tourists - up in its ships, though the timeline remains uncertain. It already has about 600 customers on a waiting list. When the first ship is ready, it will take company founder Richard Branson up first, Whitesides said.
"We'll see how that goes," he said of the Branson flight, and after that, it will be ready to begin commercial service. Virgin has set late 2020 as a possible timeframe for the first launch, though Whitesides wouldn't commit to hitting that in the interview Thursday.
Still, investors liked the "Weight on Wheels" announcement; Virgin Galactic's stock was up 5% at $11.99 on Thursday.