Nearly seven months after a fatal breakup destroyed Virgin Galactic's first SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, the second SpaceShipTwo reached a construction milestone on Thursday: "weight on wheels," the point at which the structure is able to stand on its own landing gear rather than resting on supports.
"Although there's still much work to be done, this was a powerful and emotional moment for our team to reflect on how far we have come," the company wrote in a Facebook post.
Construction of SpaceShipTwo Tail No. 2 began even before last October's tragic test flight. The plane, known as VSS Enterprise, broke up just seconds after its test pilots fired up the hybrid rocket engine. The co-pilot, Michael Alsbury, died in the crash; pilot Pete Siebold was injured.
The team at The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic's manufacturing wing, gathers around SpaceShipTwo Tail No. 2 inside the Final Assembly, Integration and Test Flight Hangar (FAITH) at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet released the findings of its accident investigation, but Virgin Galactic's executives have voiced confidence they'll be able to follow up on any recommendations by the time SpaceShipTwo 2.0 takes flight.
The plane is taking shape inside a giant hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, under the supervision of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic's manufacturing wing.
"We're very happy with our team and with the progress we have made so far in building our new spaceship," Doug Shane, president of The Spaceship Company, said in comments emailed to NBC News. "They've put an incredible amount of thought, care, and attention to detail into building this beautiful new vehicle. We know there is a lot of work still in front of us, but we feel a deep sense of pride about how far we've come."