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More about: Spaceship firm to expand

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Tue Mar 15, 2005 4:13 pm
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By Jim Skeen: Rutan to add hangar, about 70 employees MOJAVE — SpaceShipOne-builder Scaled Composites expects to expand this year, adding a new hangar and, if all goes well, about 70 new employees.
Famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan’s company is expanding in part because of its spacecraft work for billionaire airline owner Sir Richard Branson, but Scaled Composites also has other projects.

“If the work projections are right, we will be adding significantly to our work force,” company Vice President Kevin Mickey said last week.

Scaled Composites plans to buy a hangar of about 65,000 square feet at Mojave Airport and could also add about 70 workers to its 130-person staff by the end of the year, Mickey said.

Space work will play a significant role in the expansion, Mickey said.

The work includes developing a commercial spaceliner for Branson’s Virgin Galactic, a company that expects to begin suborbital flights for tourists in 2007 or 2008. Branson plans for Virgin Galactic to invest more than $100 million to produce five spacecraft and provide ground support for their operations.

Details are being closely guarded, but Mickey said the new spacecraft will be larger than SpaceShipOne, with a capacity of six to nine people.

“Like an airline, the more people you can can carry for the same amount of gas, the better off you are,” Mickey said.

SpaceShipOne flew with only a pilot on each of its three suborbital flights last year, but on two of the flights it carried the equivalent weight of two passengers. The additional weight was a requirement to win the $10 million Ansari X-Prize, aimed at spurring space-tourism development.

Virgin Galactic is planning to charge $200,000 a ticket for a suborbital flight that will give passengers just a few minutes in space. Despite the hefty price tag, the company reports that some 135,000 people have indicated interest in buying tickets.

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