The Spaceship Company

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The Spaceship Company
Industry Aerospace
Founded Mojave, California (2005)
Headquarters Mojave, California[1]
Key people
Doug Shane, President[2]
Enrico Palermo, VP Operations[3][4]
Burt Rutan and Richard Branson, founders;
Products spacecraft and aircraft production[1]
Number of employees
250 (July 2014)[2]
Parent Virgin Galactic
Website The Spaceship Company

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.[5] 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[6] 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 will sell spacecraft to other buyers.[7] The suborbital launch system offered will include the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft and the White Knight Two carrier aircraft.[8]


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,[9] with "exclusive use of the systems for the initial 18 months of commercial passenger operations."[10]

By late 2010, the company had announced plans to build three WhiteKnightTwo aircraft and five SpaceShipTwo rocket planes.[11]

Since the first WK2 and the first SS2 were built by Scaled Composites, TSC has responsibility for the manufacture of the second WK2 aircraft and the second SS2 spacecraft for Virgin Galactic, as well as additional production craft as other customers for the vehicles emerge.[4][7]

Virgin Galactic acquired 100% ownership of TSC in 2012, by acquiring the 30% stake still owned by Scaled Composites.[12]

The company had grown to 70 persons by July 2011[7] and to 145 by June 2013.[13]

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.[3][13] In July 2014, Shane was named President of the company.[2]

Spaceship construction

In March 2010, following the construction of the initial 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.[14]

By July 2014, TSC was halfway complete with the build of the second SpaceShipTwo[2]VSS Voyager—and is 65 percent complete as of early November 2014. Virgin Galactic expects Voyager to be complete in 2016.[15]

As of mid-2014, a second WhiteKnightTwo was also under construction.[2]

Production facility

In November 2010, TSC broke ground on a new 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."[11]

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.[7]

In September, 2011, TSC completed construction of the new plant, on schedule, for US$8,000,000. The production of the new spacecraft—initially three WhiteKnightTwo aircraft and five of the smaller SpaceShipTwo rocket planes—was also planned to commence before the end of that month.[16][citation needed]

The FAITH hangar is 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."[17]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The SpaceShip Company, Virgin Galactic press release, 2010-01-21, accessed 2010-03-24.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Doug Shane Named President of The Spaceship Company". Citizens in Space. Retrieved 2014-07-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lindsey, Clark (2013-06-28). "Doug Shane named Executive VP and General Manager of The Spaceship Company". NewSpace Watch. Retrieved 2013-06-29. (Subscription required (help)).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mayer, Steven (2013-04-25). "Tourist spaceship may take key flight on Monday". Bakersfield Californian. Retrieved 2013-04-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Virgin Galactic acquires full ownership of The Spaceship Company" (Press release). The Spaceship Company. 2012-10-05. Retrieved April 4, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. See section headed "SPACESHIPONE" at the FAQ Page of Scaled Composites' website for more details.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Norris, Guy (2011-07-11). "Scaled And Virgin Lift Veil On Spaceship Production Progress". Aviation Week and Space Technology. Retrieved 2011-07-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Virgin Galactic Announces LauncherOne – A Satellite Launcher for WhiteKnightTwo" (Press release). The Spaceship Company. 2012-06-11. Retrieved April 4, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Davis, Leonard (2005-07-27). "Richard Branson and Burt Rutan Form Spacecraft Building Company". Retrieved 2009-10-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Branson And Rutan Launch New Spaceship Manufacturing Company". ScienceDaily. 2005-07-28. Retrieved 2009-10-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 Hennigan, W.J. (2010-11-08). "Spacecraft factory to break ground in Mojave". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Virgin Galactic Acquires Full Ownership of The Spaceship Company" (Press release). 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2012-10-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Messier, Doug (2013-06-28). "Ex-Scaled Composites Boss Doug Shane Moves Over to The Spaceship Company". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2013-11-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 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."
  15. Klotz, Irene (2014-11-02). "Virgin Galactic CEO Sees New Spacecraft Ready Next Year". Reuters. Retrieved 2014-11-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Hennigan, W.J. (2011-09-20). "Firm completes spacecraft factory in Mojave". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-09-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Norris, Guy (2011-09-21). "SpaceShipTwo Maker Opens For Business". Aviation Week and Space Technology. Retrieved 2011-09-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links