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WK2 and SS2 in Hangar   (Source: International Space Fellowship)
Flight testing is still ongoing for SS2

Space flight is an expensive proposition today and is limited for the most part to governments that spend billions to fund space programs. In the future, space flight may become much more affordable and everyday people may have the chance to become astronauts.

Virgin Galactic has already debuted its SpaceshipOne (SS1) spacecraft to the public. The follow up to that original spacecraft dubbed SpaceshipTwo (SS2) is now set for its first public unveiling along with its mothership the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2).

Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan are unveiling the SS2 and WK2 to the public this week and the craft has already made its maiden flight. SS2 hopes to start taking people on suborbital flights as soon as the test flights and required U.S. government licensing have been completed. SS2 is capable of carrying up to six "passenger astronauts" and up to two "pilot astronauts" into space on a sub-orbital flight.

The unveiling was held at the Mojave Air and Spaceport after dark. The unveiling was subject to regulatory requirements and the SS2 was attached to WK2 for the unveiling. The WK2 mothership will take the SS2 to an altitude of 50,000 feet before the spaceship drops and fires the rocket engines to carry the craft and passengers into sub-orbital space flight.

Governor Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Richardson of New Mexico were on hand to christen SS2 with the name Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Enterprise. The name was chosen in honor of the history of naming Royal Navy and U.S. Navy ships Enterprise and in honor of the Star Trek spacecraft.

The design and operation of the Virgin Galactic program has resulted in a number of new jobs being created. International Space Fellowship reports that a recent study claims 12,500 new jobs were created by the new companies involved in the project. About 600 workers are now involved in the project and that number is expected to climb to 1,100 at the peak of construction.

The maiden voyage of WK2 and SS2 lasted about an hour and the aircraft reached an altitude of 16,000 feet. Once the testing program is complete and space flights commence a ticket will cost travelers $200,000.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic said, “This is truly a momentous day. The team has created not only a world first but also a work of art. The unveil of SS2 takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this ambitious project is not only moving rapidly, but also making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation.”

Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites added, “All of us at Scaled are tremendously excited by the capabilities of both the mothership and SS2.  Today is the culmination of a dream that began many decades ago, was stimulated by Paul Allen’s funding of our X-Prize winning SS1 and then moved forward to commercial reality by Sir Richard and Virgin’s visionary investment in a new future for space transportation.”

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RE: Is it just me
By amanojaku on 12/8/2009 12:48:20 PM , Rating: 1
It wouldn't be the first company to go under because of a bad business plan. Look at Richard Branson's own failures:

1) Virgin Games
2) Virgin Brides
3) Virgin Cars
4) Virgin Megastore
5) Virgin Digital

$200K per person seems a bit cheap for space flight. But this isn't space flight. I just looked it up and this goes as high as 70,000 ft, or 13 miles. NASA and others peg space flight at 50 miles. This is just a 2.5 hour plane ride with 6 minutes worth of weightless novelty.

And, yes, I do know they market it as "sub-orbital" space flight.

RE: Is it just me
By knownunknowns on 12/8/2009 1:17:02 PM , Rating: 4
You might want to look it up again. SpaceShipTwo has an intended apogee of almost 70 miles, not 70,000 feet.

Maybe you looked up the max altitude of White Knight II.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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