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Space Tourism Takes Another Step

09 December 2009

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) were together unveiled to the public for the first time this week at Mojave Air and Spaceport, California

Construction of the composite-based reusable spacecraft, SS2, involved Mojave-based Scaled Composites. The craft, built from carbon composites, has just completed the necessary US government tests in order to gain a license for its proposed commercial space tourism missions.

The WK2 mothership was last year named EVE after Sir Richard Branson’s mother. WK2 is designed to carry SS2 to over 50,000 feet before the spaceship is dropped and fires its rocket to launch it into space.

During the unveiling ceremony, Governor Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Richardson of New Mexico christened the SS2 with the name ‘Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Enterprise’.

In 2004, the spaceship’s predecessor, the SS1, won the Ansari X-Prize after completing the world’s first manned private space flights. The SS2 design borrowed a lot from this project but will continue to undergo a refinement program, which will commence shortly. It is thought that this testing period will take around 18 months.

Commenting on the unveiling, 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 XPrize 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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