Of course you must have heard of Virgin Galactic, right? Billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s latest pet project that has been going on for the last few years which will be taking paying passengers to space and back sometime in the next one-two years. The spaceship that will be taking these passengers was being designed and built by aerospace designer Burt Rutan’s company, Scaled Composites. Today’s unveiling marks the first chance for outsiders to get a peek at the new rocket plane, which has been in development shrouded in secrecy for the last few years. 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 official rollout will be available exclusively for the would-be passengers who have paid $200,000 for their suborbital flight to space. The VSS Enterprise, an eight person SpaceShipTwo-class vehicle ( six passengers, two crew ) is named after its namesake from Star Trek, and is a successor to the SpaceShipOne vehicle which flew to space in 2004 to win the Ansari X Prize. The unveiling marks the first public appearance of a commercial passenger spacecraft.
Last year, Branson and Rutan had caused some hype by the unveling of the “mothership” WhiteKnightTwo AKA VMS Eve, which will be carrying the VSS Enterprise to its launch altitude of 50,000 feet. The spacecraft is powered by a single hybrid rocket motor burning a combination of nitrous oxide and a rubber-based solid fuel, which will kick it to an altitude of almost 110km (68 miles) and a speed of around 4200 km/h ( 2600 mph ). The 2 1/2 hour trips — up and down flights without circling the Earth — include about five minutes of weightlessness. The spacecraft will then re-enter using a “feathered reentry” technique to slow down by utilizing maximum aerodynamic drag as it re-enters the atmosphere.
Virgin Galactic expects to spend more than $400 million for a fleet of five commercial spaceships and launch vehicles. They also plan to operate commercial spaceflights out of a taxpayer-funded spaceport in New Mexico that is under construction, called “Spaceport America”. The first SpaceShipTwo test flights are expected to start next year, with full-fledged space launches to its maximum altitude by or in 2011. This could mark the beginning of a new era in space transportation.
Source : SpaceFellowship