In the new article from Robert Space Industries you can get some insight into the ships development process.
There are 3 stages and here is how the devs describe it:
Concept Ready – This is where we share a finalized and approved concept to the community. At this stage we’ve internally reviewed and approved the final renders after thorough exploration of functional design. A recent example of this is the Reclaimer.
Hangar Ready – This is where we have ships ready to go into the hangar of everyone who has purchased a ship. At this stage the model is mostly finalized and associated character animations are complete. If a ship has any variants our goal is to have any variants in of the ship Hangar Ready at the same time as each other. A recent example of this are the Constellations.
Dogfight Ready – At this stage we’ve prepared the ships to be used in Arena Commander and later the Persistent Universe. The important differences is that we’ve refined their LOD’s, setup all of their damage states, visual effects, audio effects, final lighting, etc. A recent example of this is the M50.
More can be found in the source below.