Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has reached a major milestone in the construction of its next passenger spaceship, it said.
All major structural elements have been assembled, and the rocket is standing on its landing gear at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
Images show the craft in a hangar, next to Virgin’s Space Ship Unity vessel.
That has already been to space twice during test flights, in preparation for commercial operations in New Mexico.
“We now have two spaceships which are structurally complete, with our third making good progress,” chief executive George Whitesides said.
“These spaceships are destined to provide thousands of private astronauts with a truly transformative experience by performing regular trips to space.”
The company said it hopes to commence commercial operations in 2020.
Founded by billionaire Branson, the Virgin Galactic listed on the New York stock exchange late last year.
Shares are currently valued at $11.33, slightly up since its listing. Virgin Galactic’s stock exchange ticker is SPCE.
In an interview with City A.M. in November, Branson even raised the possibility of a lunar hotel as the next step. Instead of focusing on humans inhabiting Mars – an idea floated by Bezos and Musk – Branson’s vision suggests a possible tourist industry.
“We’re looking at creating something like a Virgin Hotel in space,” he said.
“It may develop into that [colonising Mars]. But I think that we feel a hotel in space would be better, maybe just on the Moon, may be better than actually colonising.”
Image: Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo (© Virgin Galactic 2020)