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Virgin Galactic spacecraft assembly facility opens in Mojave

September 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A historic step has been taken toward the dream of sending tourists into space.

A new assembly facility for Virgin Galactic vehicles is opening in California. The $8 million hanger by The Spaceship Company opened at the Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert.

The Spaceship Company, which goes by TSC, is part of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company.

"Our aspiration for TSC and Virgin Galactic is to open space up to dramatically more people and uses than ever before," said George Whitesides, CEO of TSC.

It will be used to manufacture spaceships and aircraft needed to send customers into space from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

While space travel is the lofty goal, the reality of the facility is that it could be a major jobs creator.

"In the last year, we've recruited 90 people into our organization. We're going to double that in the next year," said Enrico Palermo of TSC. "Combined with the money Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company has invested in the development program, we're talking about $200 million in investment in the Mojave area."

Virgin Galactic is looking to launch its first space plane later this year at a cost of $200,000 a ride. Virgin says it has a waiting list of 450 passengers.

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