Virgin Galactic has chosen the site where it will design and manufacture its LauncherOne space vehicle, and its sticking close to its Pasadena, California, headquarters.
The commercial spaceflight company said it would build out a 150,000-square-foot facility at the Long Beach Airport. The location used to be a Boeing plant. “The technical progress our team has made designing and testing LauncherOne has enabled a move into a dedicated facility to produce the rocket at quantity,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides.
The LauncherOne is a two-stage orbital launch vehicle, capable of delivering satellites of up to 500 pounds into orbit. And according to The Verge, the company already has its first order. The tech company OneWeb is attempting to build a satellite-based Internet, and plans to put a network of 648 satellites floating above the earth.
As many as 100 jobs will be created with more coming as the facility grows. Hiring is expected to increase beginning in March and full scale production of the craft will start in 2016.
Unlike competing commercial space company SpaceX, the LauncherOne doesn’t use a launch pad. Instead, it’s released during flight from Virgin’s WhiteKnightTwo aircraft. A similar process is used by Orbital ATK, another commercial spaceflight company also competing with Virgin and SpaceX, only its craft will be able to carry a heavier payload.
Virgin’s big selling points are frequency and cost. It claims its method allows them launch payloads every three to four hours, instead of twice a month like SpaceX, and according to owner Sir Richard Branson, for a price that’s the "lowest in the nation or perhaps the world."
The new facility adds to Virgin Galactic’s locations in the U.S., with Spaceport America in New Mexico, WhiteNightTwo and SpaceShipTwo production happening at the Mojave plants and HQ in Southern California.