Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has unveiled a new commercial human spaceflight vehicle to take tourists into space.
The new SpaceShipTwo (SS2), VSS Unity, named by Professor Stephen Hawking, made its debut at the Mojave Air & Space Port in Caifornia today by Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline.
The billionaire and business magnate behind Virgin Group is an advocate for civilian space travel saying today that: “Together, we can make space accessible in a way that has only been dreamt of before now, and by doing so can bring positive change to life on Earth.”
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) February 19, 2016
The release of the new SpaceShipTwo takes place 16 months after the fatal crash of the original SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise, in 2014 which suffered a breakup during its test flight over the Mojave Desert killing co-pilot, Michael Alsbury, and leaving pilot Peter Siebold seriously injured.
Virgin Galactic says the new ship will maintain the “same basic design” to its sister ship but with a “few key improvements”.
The ABC reports that the biggest difference will be the inclusion of a pin which will prevent pilots from unlocking the rotating tail section of the aircraft before descent which was blamed for the accident on the original ship.
“We seek to open space to people from all walks of life, and today’s milestone is big step toward that goal,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George T. Whitesides.
“Outer space is the province of all humanity, and we think it is about time that all of humanity has a chance to explore it: not just pilots but also painters, not just engineers but also everyday explorers,”
The SpaceShipTwo experience will cost US$250,000 (AUD$349,662).
Here are photos of the new aircraft below:
It is 18 metres in length with a wing/tail boom span of 12.8 metres.
The aircraft will feature a silver and white paint scheme and will take up to two pilots and six passengers.
Here was Branson when he saw it for the first time.
Even Harrison Ford made an appearance at the debut today.
‘Space exploration has already been a great unifier – we seem able to cooperate between nations in space in a way we can only envy on Earth. We are entering a new space age and I hope this will help to create a new unity.’ – Professor Stephen Hawking.
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