The lights just went on inside Virgin Galactic's next spaceliner.
The Spaceship Co., Virgin Galactic's manufacturing subsidiary, recently wrapped up a landmark "Power On" test of the third SpaceShipTwo vehicle, which is being assembled in Mojave, California.
"This test verified the foundation of the electrical system of the new spaceship and means we can start verification of the onboard electrical subsystems in preparation for its first flight," The Spaceship Co. said via Twitter yesterday (Oct. 21).
The six-passenger SpaceShipTwo is designed to carry paying customers and scientific payloads on brief trips to suborbital space. The winged vehicle is carried to an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) by a plane known as WhiteKnightTwo. At that point, SpaceShipTwo drops free and fires its onboard rocket motor, which carries the vehicle up to space.
A ticket to ride SpaceShipTwo costs $250,000, and more than 600 people have reserved a seat to date, Virgin Galactic representatives have said.
The company currently has one SpaceShipTwo craft up and running, a vehicle called VSS Unity that has completed two test flights to suborbital space. VSS Unity is currently getting its cabin touched up at The Spaceship Co.'s Mojave facilities and will soon make the trek out to Virgin Galactic's commercial hub, Spaceport America in New Mexico.
After completing its test campaign in the Land of Enchantment, Unity will start commercial operations, likely sometime next year.
Unity is the second SpaceShipTwo to begin flight tests. The first, VSS Enterprise, was destroyed during a test-flight accident in October 2014 that killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury and injured pilot Peter Siebold.
The Spaceship Co. is currently building two SpaceShipTwos in Mojave. These vehicles are officially known as Serial No. 3 and Serial No. 4.
"They have internal names, but we're not revealing them yet," Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses told Space.com in August at the unveiling of the company's Gateway to Space building at Spaceport America.
Serial No. 3, which just experienced the Power On trial, should begin flight tests sometime next year, Moses added.
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Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.