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Virgin unveils Space Ship 2

Posted 8 December 2009 · Add Comment

Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson and SpaceshipOne (SS1) designer, Burt Rutan, have revealed SS2 to the public for the first time since construction of the world's first manned commercial spaceship began in 2007. 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 unveiling represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic’s quest to develop the World’s first commercial space line providing private sector access to space using an environmentally benign launch system for people, payload and science.The project is being developed in partnership with Abu Dhabi investors.

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 SS2 design will be refined and completed during an extensive test flying program to commence shortly, and it will be an entirely new vehicle capable of carrying up to 6 passenger astronauts and up to 2 pilot astronauts into space on a sub-orbital flight.

The unveil itself took place at Mojave Air and Spaceport as darkness fell on the famous aviation and spaceflight location. SS2 was attached to her WK2 mothership which was last year unveiled and named EVE after Sir Richard Branson’s mother. In the future, WK2 will carry SS2 to above 50,000 feet (16 kilometres) before the spaceship is dropped and fires her rocket motor to launch into space from that altitude.

In honour of a long tradition of using the word Enterprise in the naming of Royal Navy, US Navy, NASA vehicles and even science fiction spacecraft, Governor Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Richardson of New Mexico christened SS2 with the name Virgin Space Ship (VSS) ENTERPRISE.

Branson said. “This represents not only an acknowledgement to that name’s honourable past but also looks to the future of the role of private enterprise in the development of the exploration, industrialisation and human habitation of space.”

Both WK2 and SS2 represent state of the art environmentally sensitive industrial development in their use of carbon composite materials technology, which has now been identified as a key future contributor to the increasingly urgent requirement by the commercial aviation sector for dramatically more fuel efficient aircraft. WK2 is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, which are amongst the most powerful. economic and efficient commercial jet engines available making it a mould breaker in carbon efficiency. SS2 will be powered by a unique hybrid rocket motor, which is currently under development.

 The twin fuselage and central payload area configuration allow for easy access to WK2 and to the spaceship for passengers and crew; the design also aids operational efficiencies and turnaround times. The mothership has now also completed a year of rigorous and successful first phase flight testing prior to today’s attachment of SS2.

Branson said: “This is truly a momentous day. The team has created not only a world first but also a work of art. The unveil of SS2 takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this ambitious project is not only moving rapidly, but also making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation”.

 

 

 

 

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