First Look at SpaceShipTwo

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.”

SS2 and VMS Eve in hangar 2.  Credit: Virgin Galactic
SS2 and VMS Eve in hangar 2. Credit: Virgin Galactic

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:

Comparing SS1 and SS2.  Click for larger version.
Comparing SS1 and SS2. Click for larger version.

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

11 Replies to “First Look at SpaceShipTwo”

  1. It looks really cool, but there is one problem. This stuff is not exactly that safe. All it will take is a big accident which sends that suborbital craft into pieces across Dona Ana county New Mexico to send these ideas of space tourism packing for good. Remember, it will be rich dudes on that craft and the families of the dead will have the lawyers to sue the crap out of Virgin Galactic. This is not just space tourism, it will at some point be a privatized version of a shuttle crash.

    To be honest this stuff annoys me, in part because the state of NM is subsidizing this at a multi hundred million $$$ price tag. It is also frankly a rich man’s space entertainment (also life & death lottery) system.


  2. I couldn’t be more excited about this and hopefully in my lifetime this will be accessible to the average person (i.e me). While it seems likely there’ll be an accident at some point, which would be horrifying, I don’t see how that would send the idea of public space tourism packing. A safety rate of 97% would be sufficient for me to risk it, so long as I didn’t need to re-mortgage my house to do it.

    I really hope this works out for Richard and his team, they’ve clearly worked so hard on it and we should all be very proud of the men and women involved for kicking off what will be as big as air travel one day.

  3. Otay… looking good so far!

    The X-37B will also fly on the White Knight II and is a NUCH more interesting craft!

    Q: Does the X-37B has enough ‘juice’ aboard to achieve orbit after release from the White Knight II? Or will it, in turn, release an orbital sub system at the top of its flight envelope/apex? like the Space Ship I and II?

  4. Oops…

    … a MUCH more interesting craft!

    Q: Does the X-37B have enough… at the top of its flight envelope/apex? Similar to the Space Ship I and II flight envelopes?

  5. The actual story has us to believe that the White Knight II will be used for ‘drop tests’ of the X-37B.

  6. “…but there is one problem. This stuff is not exactly that safe…”

    The same could be said of early air flight as well after the Wright Bros made their first historic flights. Will there be accidents? Undoubtedly. Will people die? Probably. Will it stop people from exploring space in this nature? I sincerely hope not!

    The truth of the matter is that if we keep waiting on NASA and the government to make all of our “space dreams come true”, we’re never gonna get off this pretty little rock we live on. Unless we start electing political leaders who can and are willing to make a difference (which seems unlikely in this country at least), the private sector is this country’s best hope of any “real” space exploration.

    In many ways this is exactly like the early days of air travel…yes, it’s a thing for only the rich at the moment. And just as a great many people have died in air plane crashes over the years I’m sure there will be casualties in ventures such as this. For that matter, how many people die in automobile accidents in this country alone EVERY YEAR? Does that mean we should all just stay at home in hermetically sealed little bubbles eating nothing but organically grown produce for the rest of our lives? Is that really any way to live at all? Life isn’t always safe…nor is it supposed to be.

    That said, ideas such as what we have here have to start somewhere…it requires people with a lot of money and it requires people with bold visions who aren’t willing to simply sit on their hands and “play it safe”. Personally I’ve never met Sir Richard Branson but I have to sincerely admire what he’s trying to do…it’s a good and proper step forward and thank goodness there’s folks such as him that are willing and able to do it.

  7. @lomitus, There is nothing about this that involves the exploration of space. This is little more than a device for very expensive joy rides. You have to be willing to pay out the cost of an basic home mortgage for a 15 minute ride.


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