Richard Branson unveils model of SpaceShipTwo

January 24th, 2008 - 3:41 pm ICT by admin  

London, January 24 (ANI): English entrepreneur Richard Branson has unveiled the model of his dream spaceship which, he envisions, may make his company Virgin Galactic the worlds first concern to organise space trips for private passengers on a regular basis.

One will have to shell out about 200,000 dollars for travelling by SpaceShipTwo, which will carry six passengers and two pilots.

The sub-orbital trips to the edge of space at an altitude of about 100 km are expected to take about 2.5 hours, with about five minutes of weightlessness.

Such trips, the test flights for which are to begin later this year, will launch from a spaceport to be built in New Mexico.

An aircraft called White Knight Two, which was also unveiled with SpaceShipTwo on Wednesday, will take it to an altitude of about 15 km before its engines start to reach space.

Both craft have been designed by Burt Rutan, whose SpaceShipOne collected the Ansari X Prize for privately funded spaceflight in 2004. Shortly afterwards, Branson clinched a deal with him to design the sub-orbital spacecraft for Virgin Galactic.

“We really do want to have a situation where hundreds of thousands of people who want to experience space travel are able to do so,” New Scientist magazine quoted Branson as saying at a media event at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

“Even though the dollar isn’t worth much anymore, 200,000 dollars is still too expensive for the majority of people. Within five years of launching, I would hope the price would come down fairly dramatically,” he said.

Virgin Galactic has already collected over 30 million dollars from more than 200 people, who are interested in the ultimate sightseeing trip. Physicist Stephen Hawking, former soap star Victoria Principal, and designer Philippe Starck are among them.

About 100 of Virgin’s reserved passengers had the first glimpse of the spacecraft’s design during Wednesday’s unveiling.

“It’s like something out of Thunderbirds. It’s what we as kids in the 1960s thought the future would be like,” said Trevor Beattie, a British advertising executive.

Virgin Galactic says White Knight Two, the world’s largest carbon composite aircraft, might be used for unmanned launches, as well.

The company says that the aircraft can potentially carry rockets into the atmosphere, where they may then ignite and loft satellites into orbit, while using less fuel than they would have if they had launched from the ground. (ANI)

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