Ground Broken at World's First Spaceship Factory

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To get off the planet requires a really big facility here on the planet.

A company has broken ground on the world's first spaceship factory, a 68,000 square foot, 737-sized hangar in California's Mojave Desert. The facility will be used to build space-tourism vehicles for Virgin Galactic, which plans to sell trips into outer space for the low, low price of just $200,000.

The facility is being built by The Spaceship Company (TSC), a new aerospace production company founded by Virgin Galactic chief Sir Richard Branson and Scaled Composites, the subsidiary of Northrop Grumman that designed the Virgin SpaceShipTwo craft. The factory will be used as TSC's operating headquarters once complete and for the assembly, integration and testing of the new spacecraft, said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and TSC.

"Today's groundbreaking of TSC's new hangar is another significant milestone in developing Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceflight operations -- following on from recent achievements including the maiden and second glide flights of SpaceShipTwo and the dedication of Spaceport America's runway in New Mexico," Whitesides said in a statement.

TSC said it plans to hire up to 170 employees to build its spaceships, and has already begun accepting applicants on the company's website. The company lists several job openings already, primarily for engineering and technician roles.

The facility is located at Mojave Air and Space Port, but the completed craft will launch from the yet-to-be-finished Spaceport America in New Mexico. Spaceport America just recently announced the completion of its first runway for spaceships, although the entire facility is still under development.

Virgin Galactic says it has taken reservations and deposits from more than 380 people and hopes to make its first passenger flight next year. SpaceShipTwo will climb to the edge of space, about 60 miles above the Earth's surface, where passengers will experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth.