Virgin Galactic Unveils Commercial Rocket Plane Design for Space Tourism

MOJAVE, Calif., Dec. 7 (UPI) — Virgin Galactic is ready to unveil a commercial rocket plane designed to launch tourists into suborbital space, the company said.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and aircraft designer Burt Rutan, whose SpaceShipOne took the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004, joined in the announcement, CNETnews reported.

SpaceShipTwo, with two pilots and carrying six passengers, will begin test flights next year. Commercial launches carrying paying customers will begin after government regulations are met, the report said. Tickets for the up-and-down flight are expected to cost $200,000 apiece for initial flights.

The company planned an unveiling of the ship at the Mojave, Calif., airport.

“SS2 has been designed to take many thousands of private astronauts into space after test programming and all required U.S. government licensing has been completed,” the company said in a statement.

“The spaceship draws on the experience developed during the successful flights of SS1 in 2004, which won the Ansari X Prize for completing the world’s first manned private space flights,” the statement said. “The SS2 design will be refined and completed during an extensive test flying program to commence shortly.”

CNETnews said Virgin Galactic reportedly plans to spend $400 million to build a fleet of five rocket planes, with commercial flights to be launched from a taxpayer-funded spaceport under construction in New Mexico.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Categorized | Transportation
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