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The Spaceship Company

Coordinates: 35°03′20″N 118°09′18″W / 35.0555664°N 118.155105°W / 35.0555664; -118.155105
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35°03′20″N 118°09′18″W / 35.0555664°N 118.155105°W / 35.0555664; -118.155105

Virgin Galactic Holdings, LLC
Company typePrivate
FoundedMojave, California (2005)
FoundersBurt Rutan and Richard Branson
HeadquartersMojave, California[1]
Key people
George Whitesides (CEO)
Enrico Palermo (President)
Jon Campagna (CFO)
ProductsSpacecraft and aircraft production[1]
Number of employees
430 (July 2018)[2]
ParentVirgin Galactic
Website[1] www.virgingalactic.com/

The Spaceship Company (TSC) is a British/American spacecraft manufacturing company that was founded by Burt Rutan and Richard Branson in mid-2005 and was jointly owned by Virgin Group (70%) and Scaled Composites (30%) until 2012 when Virgin Galactic became the sole owner.[3] TSC was formed to own the technology created by Scaled for Virgin Galactic's Virgin SpaceShip program. This includes developments on the care-free reentry[4] system and cantilevered-hybrid rocket motor, licensed from Paul Allen and Burt Rutan's Mojave Aerospace. The company is manufacturing Virgin Galactic's spacecraft and has plans to sell spacecraft to other buyers.[5]

The suborbital launch system offered included the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) spacecraft and the White Knight Two (WK2) carrier aircraft.[6]



The company was founded in 2005 by Burt Rutan and Richard Branson, and was initially jointly owned by Virgin Group and Scaled Composites, to own the technology created by Scaled for Virgin Galactic's Virgin SpaceShip program. Virgin Galactic was announced to be the launch customer for the SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo vehicles. Virgin placed an initial order for five SpaceShipTwos and two WhiteKnightTwos,[7] with "exclusive use of the systems for the initial 18 months of commercial passenger operations."[8]

By late 2010, the company had announced plans to build three WhiteKnightTwo aircraft and five SpaceShipTwo rocket planes.[9]


Since the first WK2 and the first SS2 were built by Scaled Composites, TSC had responsibility for the manufacture of the second WK2 aircraft (not built as of 2024) and the second SS2 spacecraft for Virgin Galactic, as well as additional production craft as other customers for the vehicles would emerge.[10][5]

Virgin Galactic acquired 100% ownership of TSC in 2012, by acquiring the 30% stake still owned by Scaled Composites,[11] which itself had been acquired by Northrop Grumman.[12]

The company had grown to 70 persons by July 2011,[5] 145 by June 2013,[13] 250 by July 2014,[14] and 430 by July 2018.

In June 2013, Doug Shane joined TSC to become executive VP and general manager, ending a 31-year career with Scaled Composites, including five as president.[15][13] In July 2014, Shane was named president of the company.[14]

In 2016, it was announced that TSC, Virgin Galactic, and the Virgin Group, would be collaborating with Boom Technology to develop a supersonic trans-oceanic passenger jetliner.[16][17]

By February 2018, The Spaceship Company was "duplicating and testing prototypes of an original design of SpaceShipTwo" with the goal of sending a model into space in 2019.[18] It was building models for Virgin Galactic.[19]

Spaceship construction[edit]

In March 2010, following the construction of the prototypes of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo by Scaled Composites, The Spaceship Company stated in 2010 that it was moving the aircraft and spacecraft into commercial production.[20]

By July 2014, TSC was halfway complete with the build of the second SpaceShipTwo[14]VSS Unity—and was 65 percent complete as of early November 2014. Virgin Galactic rolled out VSS Unity on 19 February 2016.[21][22] A release by TSC on the company's Twitter account in May 2018 showed two more spacecraft, after VSS Unity, under construction.[23]

Aircraft construction[edit]

TSC collaborated with Boom Technology to create a new supersonic transport. The initial 1/3-size prototype would be the XB-1 "Baby Boom" Supersonic Demonstrator. [16][17]

Production facility[edit]

In November 2010, TSC broke ground on a 68,000-square-foot (6,300 m2) aircraft assembly plant at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. The manufacturing facility was expected to employ "up to 170 people when production is in full swing."[9]

In July 2011, TSC announced it would begin production of "the first sections for a second WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft along with the first of multiple SpaceShipTwo (SS2) suborbital vehicles for Virgin Galactic and, ultimately, other customers" in the "Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar" (FAITH) in the fall of 2011.[5]

In September, 2011, TSC completed construction of the new plant, on schedule, for US$8,000,000. The production of new spacecraft—initially three WhiteKnightTwo aircraft and five of the smaller SpaceShipTwo rocket planes—was planned to commence before the end of that month.[24][citation needed]

The FAITH hangar was intended to be used for building the one-piece composite spars and wing for WK2, fuselage lay-up for both WK2 and SS2, and "will also be used for major maintenance and will serve as the company’s operating headquarters."[25]


  1. ^ a b The SpaceShip Company Archived 2010-03-10 at the Wayback Machine, Virgin Galactic press release, 2010-01-21, accessed 2010-03-24.
  2. ^ The Spaceship Company Archived 2021-01-09 at the Wayback Machine - Home site. Accessed: 18 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Virgin Galactic acquires full ownership of The Spaceship Company" (Press release). The Spaceship Company. 2012-10-05. Archived from the original on October 12, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  4. ^ See section headed "SPACESHIPONE" at the FAQ Page Archived 2010-03-02 at the Wayback Machine of Scaled Composites' website for more details.
  5. ^ a b c d Norris, Guy (2011-07-11). "Scaled And Virgin Lift Veil On Spaceship Production Progress". Aviation Week and Space Technology. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  6. ^ "Virgin Galactic Announces LauncherOne – A Satellite Launcher for WhiteKnightTwo" (Press release). The Spaceship Company. 2012-06-11. Archived from the original on October 11, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  7. ^ Davis, Leonard (2005-07-27). "Richard Branson and Burt Rutan Form Spacecraft Building Company". SPACE.com. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
  8. ^ "Branson And Rutan Launch New Spaceship Manufacturing Company". ScienceDaily. 2005-07-28. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
  9. ^ a b Hennigan, W.J. (2010-11-08). "Spacecraft factory to break ground in Mojave". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-09.
  10. ^ Mayer, Steven (2013-04-25). "Tourist spaceship may take key flight on Monday". Bakersfield Californian. Archived from the original on 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  11. ^ "Virgin Galactic Acquires Full Ownership of The Spaceship Company" (Press release). 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
  12. ^ Rich Smith (28 February 2016). "Virgin Galactic Is Back! (But Keep Your Ticket in Your Pocket)". The Motley Fool.
  13. ^ a b Messier, Doug (2013-06-28). "Ex-Scaled Composites Boss Doug Shane Moves Over to The Spaceship Company". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2013-11-03.
  14. ^ a b c "Doug Shane Named President of The Spaceship Company". Citizens in Space. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  15. ^ Lindsey, Clark (2013-06-28). "Doug Shane named Executive VP and General Manager of The Spaceship Company". NewSpace Watch. Archived from the original on 2021-04-27. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  16. ^ a b Justin Bachman (4 December 2016). "Colorado-based Boom Technology is bringing back supersonic. But will the airlines buy it?". Bloomberg News. The Denver Post.
  17. ^ a b Aiden Burgess (22 November 2016). "Boom Technology reveals commercial supersonic aircraft prototype with support from Virgin". The Manufacturer.
  18. ^ "Projects are taking off at Spaceship Company". Tehachapi News. February 8, 2018. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  19. ^ Michael Sheetz (April 5, 2018). "Virgin Galactic completes first rocket-powered, supersonic flight of its new spacecraft, Unity". CNBC. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  20. ^ Welcome To TSC, The Spaceship Company webpage, accessed 2010-03-24. Quotation: "TSC has contracted Scaled Composites to develop and build prototypes of WK2 and SS2 and TSC is now taking these prototypes into commercial production."
  21. ^ "New SpaceShipTwo Rollout Friday". AVweb. 18 February 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  22. ^ "Virgin Galactic unveils new space tourism rocket plane". CBC News. 19 February 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  23. ^ TheSpaceshipCompanyVerified account—@TheSpaceshipCo, via Twitter, 31 May 2018, accessed 1 June 2018.
  24. ^ Hennigan, W.J. (2011-09-20). "Firm completes spacecraft factory in Mojave". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  25. ^ Norris, Guy (2011-09-21). "SpaceShipTwo Maker Opens For Business". Aviation Week and Space Technology. Retrieved 2011-09-24.

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