Virgin Buys Out Scaled’s Share of Spaceship Co.

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Virgin Galactic bought out Scaled Composites’ stake in the Spaceship Company, giving the New Mexico company full ownership of the Mojave, Calif.-based firm that is developing the reusable suborbital spacecraft Virgin Galactic hopes to begin operating in 2014.

The Spaceship Company was formed in 2005 as a joint venture of Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, the Mojave-based aircraft engineering company run by famed designer Burt Rutan. In the transaction announced Oct. 8, Virgin acquired Scaled Composites’ 30 percent stake in the Spaceship Company. About 120 people work for the Spaceship Company, according to its website.

The Spaceship Company assembles SpaceShipTwo suborbital space planes  and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft for Virgin Galactic.

“The completion of the acquisition comes as Virgin Galactic and Scaled begin to plan the handover of the SpaceShipTwo development program to Virgin Galactic, with Scaled remaining fully committed to the final portion of the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo test flight programs prior to Virgin Galactic commencing commercial operations,” Virgin wrote in the Oct. 8 press release.

Virgin Galactic tentatively plans to begin commercial operations at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico in February 2014, according to a Sept. 24 presentation to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s board of directors. All Virgin Galactic flights to the edge of space will take off from and return to Spaceport America.

A ride to the edge of space in Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft costs about $200,000 a ticket. The spacecraft, which is air-launched by WhiteKnightTwo from an altitude of 18 kilometers, can reach a maximum altitude of 110 kilometers, according to the company. Virgin says it has already booked more $50 million worth of ticket sales.