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SpaceShipTwo is a commercial suborbital plane which is currently in development. Virgin Galactic is marketing and operating the vehicles. Virgin Galactic hopes to become the first company to provide commercial suborbital space flights for private citizens.

SpaceShipTwo Picture

SpaceShipTwo will hold six passengers and two pilots and will fly higher and have a longer downrange than SpaceShipOne. Virgin Galactic hopes to launch its first public flight before 2009 and is now taking bookings at $200,000 USA per seat. As of January 2008 it is nearly 60% complete. It incorporates both the lessons learned from the SpaceShipOne program and the market research conducted by Virgin Galactic into the requirements future astronauts have for their space flight experience. It also has built-in flexibility to encompass future requirements for other scientific and commercial applications.

How SpaceShipTwo Works

The flights will take about 2 ½ hours and SpaceShipTwo (SS2) will fly just outside of the Earth’s atmosphere where tourists will spend a few minutes floating in space before the ship must return back to the Earth’s atmosphere. SpaceShipTwo will be launched from its mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo (WK2). SpaceShipTwo will provide personal spacesuits of a design yet to be set. 

WhiteKnightTwo is the carrier vehicle. It will be larger than a Boeing 757 jet and will also sport the same interior of SpaceShipTwo and will be used to help train passengers during a three-day orientation period before launch. It will be the world's largest, all carbon composite aircraft.

White Knight 2 Specification:
- details not unveiled yet.

Length: 23.7m
Wingspan:  42.7m
Weight: ? kg
Space Ship Two Specifications:
- details not unveiled yet.
Length: ? m
Diameter: ? m
Weight: ? kg

Initial tourist flights will take off from California, and later at a proposed $225 million facility in New Mexico called Spaceport America. Virgin Galactic will schedule approximately one flight per week during the beginning period. There are plans for an initial fleet of five SS2's and two WK2's.

SpaceShipTwo Combo Photo

Picture of original SpaceShipTwo and White Knight 2

History

Virgin Galactic was born in 2004, when Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne successfully made three flights to altitudes greater than 100 kilometers and won the X Prize. Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen funded the original design, SpaceShipOne.

On September 25, 2004, Richard Branson announced a deal to create Virgin Galactic, a company to license the technology of SpaceShipOne to take passengers into suborbital flights.

On July 27, 2005 Richard Branson (Virgin Group) and Burt Rutan (Scaled Composites) announced their signing of an agreement to form a new aerospace production company to build a fleet of commercial sub-orbital spaceships and launch aircraft. The new company, The Spaceship Company owns the designs of the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and White Knight Two (WK2) launch systems.

The Spaceship Company will manufacture the new launch aircraft, spaceships and support equipment and market them to spaceline operators, including the launch customer, Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic added an e-commerce platform to its Web site to coincide with the unveiling of full-size model of the interior of SpaceShipTwo that was shown during a technology show in New York on 2 October 2006. Boutique hotel veteran Philip Stark is designing SpaceShipTwo’s interior.

Virgin Galactic unveiled the design of its new space launch system  on 23rd January 2008.

Names

Five vehicles have been ordered by Virgin Galactic:

1. VSS Enterprise
2. VSS Spirit of Steve Fossett
3. Not Named
4. Not Named
5. Not Named


Virgin Galactic spaceliners are slated to roll out and begin test flights by summer 2008 in Mojave, California, with future operational spaceflights to be staged from New Mexico’s Spaceport America beginning in 2009.


Did you know?

- Virgin Galactic have sold 200 tickets (October 2006).

- Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipOne was the first privately built craft to reach outer space, and hangs in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in the USA. It's right between Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the first plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and Chuck Yeagar's Bell X1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. SpaceShipTwo is the successor to SpaceShipone.

- Richard Branson is the Founder of the Virgin Group of Companies.

- If the SpaceShipTwo service is successful, they will develop SpaceShipThree, which is orbital.

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Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014

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