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Looking to the future, Virgin Galactic purchases 2 more motherships

Virgin Spaceship Unity and Virgin Mothership Eve take to the skies on their first captive carry flight on September 8, 2016.

Enlarge / Virgin Spaceship Unity and Virgin Mothership Eve take to the skies on their first captive carry flight on September 8, 2016. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

Nearly a full year has passed since Virgin Galactic last flew its SpaceShipTwo vehicle into space, but the company says it is progressing toward a more rapid cadence of flights.

On Wednesday, Virgin Galactic announced a deal with Boeing-owned Aurora Flight Sciences to design and manufacture two next-generation motherships. A mothership carries the Virgin Galactic spaceship to an altitude of about 15 km before releasing it, after which the spaceship fires its rocket engine and flies above 90 km.

In a news release, Virgin Galactic said it expects to take delivery of the first of the two new motherships in 2025. The company presently has a single carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, that made its first flight in 2008. Virgin has not said how long this vehicle will be able to fly missions, nor how much refurbishment it will need as it begins flying more frequently.

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