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Virgin Galactic VMS Eve Returns to Spaceport America

Virgin Galactic has begun final preparations to resume its commercial suborbital missions from Spaceport America!

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Wed Mar 01 2023Written by Zac Aubert

Virgin Galactic has begun final preparations to resume its commercial suborbital missions from Spaceport America!

Virgin Galactic's "mothership" VMS Eve, also know as WhiteKnightTwo made a flight from Mojave Air and Space Port in California back to Spaceport America in New Mexico. The journey followed an extensive overhaul, which took place from October 2021 and involved replacing both the pylon holding the spaceplane and the aircraft's horizontal stabilizers.

“All this comprehensive work on Eve took longer than we originally planned... we have now completed our enhancements, and I am incredibly appreciative of our team for the long hours that they put in to return these ships to flight" - Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic Chief Executive

Virgin Galactics is slated to resume commercial flights of its SpaceShipTw vehicle, VSS Unity in Q2 of 2023.

VSS Unity stayed put at Spaceport America, while VMS Eve underwent an extensive overhaul. According to the company, both vehicles have completed their respective preparations and are poised to undertake a series of test flights, including a glide flight and a powered test flight with Virgin Galactic personnel on board. This powered test flight, expected to be the first since the suborbital flight with company founder Richard Branson and other employees in July 2021, marks a significant milestone for VSS Unity.

“Following successful completion and verification of the analysis for those missions and consistent with our recent outlook regarding the flight schedule, we expect to commence commercial service in Q2" - Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic Chief Executive

Upcoming Missions

The first commercial flight will be for the Italian Air Force with three mission specialists onboard who will perform a mix of experiments, including some each person will wear as well as those they will oversee in payload racks and other experiments that will operate autonomously.

After the test flights and the first commercial flight with the Italian Air Force, Virgin Galactic plans to begin flying the over 800 private astronauts who have already purchased tickets, as well as conducting research flights. Virgin Galactic anticipates scheduling VSS Unity flights once a month, although Colglazier acknowledged that it may take some time for the company to establish a consistent routine.

“We see a path to be on a monthly cadence in reasonable short order...There’s nothing specifically in our way of being at a monthly cadence, I think it’s just shaking out the operation and learning how to turn the ship on a consistent basis.” - Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic Chief Executive

Next Generation Ships

Virgin Galactic's top priority is to establish a regular flight schedule for VSS Unity, which Colglazier deemed "priority one." The company's second priority is to develop a new generation of spacecraft, consisting of Delta-class spaceplanes and a new line of motherships. To this end, Virgin Galactic announced partnerships last year for producing the new vehicles, and has begun constructing a factory in the Phoenix region for building the Delta-class craft.

Colglazier stated that this year's focus is on finalizing the designs for both the next generation motherships and Delta spaceships, as well as producing the necessary tooling and starting parts fabrication. These vehicles are expected to commence commercial operations in 2026.