Virgin Galactic will unveil SpaceShipTwo (SS2), Monday night, but they did sneak out a few photos prior to the event. SS2 will be the world’s first commercial manned spaceship, with room for several passengers to move (and fly!) around during suborbital flights. “This is truly a momentous day. The team has created not only a world first but also a work of art,” said Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic founder. Burt Rutan, the designer of SpaceShipOne which won the Ansari X PRIZE in 2004 for completing the world’s first manned private space flights said, “All of us at Scaled Composites are tremendously excited by the capabilities of both the mothership and SS2.”
A “theatrical unveil” Monday night at the Mojave Spaceport will be followed by a cocktail party for the 300 plus paying passengers that have already signed up for flights on SS2, along with other VIPs of the space industry.
SpaceShipTwo’s debut marks the first public appearance of a commercial passenger spacecraft. SS2 has been under construction for two years. On board, there will be room for six passengers and two pilots.
Daily space tourism flights for SS2 are set to begin in New Mexico from Spaceport America following the completion of test programming and US government licensing. SS2 will be carried by WhiteKnightTwo mothership, a four-engine jet-powered aircraft unveiled last year that features twin fuselages mounted on either side of a huge wing. SS2 will be mounted in the center.
SpaceShipTwo will be released at an altitude of 15,240 meters (50,000 feet.) A hybrid rocket motor burning solid propellant with nitrous oxide then will boost SpaceShipTwo onto a steep trajectory to an altitude of more than 100 km (62 miles.)
Here’s an image comparing SS2 with SpaceShipOne:
The first SpaceShipTwo test flights are expected to start next year, with full-fledged space launches to its maximum altitude by or in 2011.
The 300 paid passengers have already put down the $200,000 ticket or placed a deposit, according to the company.
This video provides more looks at the vehicle.
Source: Virgin Galactic