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Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo

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Current event marker This article or section contains information regarding a future spaceflight.
Due to the nature of the content, details may change dramatically as the launch date approaches and/or more information becomes available.
Atlas I launching CRRES satellite1.jpg
Richard Branson (right) presents the Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson with (possibly) an early scale model of Virgin SpaceShip (VSS) aka SpaceShipTwo

SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital spaceplane currently under development by The Spaceship Company, a joint venture between Scaled Composites and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, as part of the Tier 1b program. The Virgin Galactic spaceliner plans to operate a fleet of five of these craft in passenger-carrying private spaceflight service starting in late 2009.[1] [1]


The first spacecraft to be completed will be named VSS (Virgin Space Ship) Enterprise in honor of the fictional Starship Enterprise.

The SpaceShipTwo craft is, in part, based on technology developed for SpaceShipOne as part of the Scaled Composites Tier One program, funded by Paul Allen. The Spaceship Company is licensing this technology from Paul Allen's Mojave Aerospace Ventures.

According to an interview with designer Burt Rutan, the new craft will fly higher and have a longer downrange than SpaceShipOne, somewhere between 100 to 200 miles (160 to 320 kilometers). The maximum capacity will be eight people: six paying passengers and two pilots.

The BBC reports that SpaceShipTwo's crew cabin will have about the same diameter as a Gulfstream V business jet, which is roughly 6 feet high by 7 feet wide (1.8 by 2.1 meters). Rutan is designing towards a maximum altitude of between 84 and 87 miles (135 to 140 km). The design of these craft was completed in late 2005, and the vehicle simulator was complete and construction had started by March 2006.[2]

Both SpaceShipTwo and its new carrier aircraft, Eve (or White Knight Two), will be roughly three times the size of the first generation spacecraft and mothership that won the Ansari X Prize. While details remain scant, designer Burt Rutan says that SpaceShipTwo will have large porthole windows[3] for the passengers' viewing pleasure, and all seats will recline back during landing to help decrease the discomfort of G-forces.[4] Reportedly, the craft can land safely even if "catastrophic damage" occurs during the flight.[5]

Commercial introduction

The vehicle itself will not be unveiled to the public until just before flight testing starts, in late 2007.

Following a series of 50-100 test flights, the first paying customers are expected to fly aboard the craft in late 2009.[3]

In August 2005, the president of space tourism company Virgin Galactic stated that if the upcoming suborbital service with SpaceShipTwo is successful, the follow-up SpaceShipThree will be an orbital craft.[6]

On 28 September 2006, Sir Richard Branson unveiled a mock-up of the SpaceShipTwo at the NextFest exposition, held in the Javits Convention Center in New York.


Five vehicles have been ordered by Virgin Galactic. As of September 2006, only one has been named, the Virgin Space Ship Enterprise, and is in development.

  1. VSS Enterprise (In development, name confirmed on 28 September 2006)[7]
  2. Not Named (Scheduled to be named in 2008)
  3. Not Named
  4. Not Named
  5. Not Named


More than 65,000 would-be space tourists have applied for the first batch of 100 tickets to be available. The price will be initially US$200,000.[8] The duration of the flight will be approximately 2.5 hours, and weekly launches are planned.

Launch site

According to a December 2005 interview[citation needed] with Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson, the SpaceShipTwo craft will initially take off from the Mojave Spaceport in California. Spaceport America (formerly Southwest Regional Spaceport), a $200 million spaceport in New Mexico partly funded by the state government, will become the permanent launch site starting in 2009.

The company has also shown interest in building spaceports in other parts of the world, including Sweden, Saudi Arabia, and Scotland.[9] However, the likelihood of these other launching points depends on the success of the initial spaceports in Mojave and New Mexico.


External links

Related content

Designation sequence: SpaceShipOne SpaceShipTwo SpaceShipThree
Related development: White Knight One White Knight Two White Knight Three
Development program: Tier One Tier 1b Tier Two
Comparable aircraft: North American X-15 & NASA X-38 & Space Shuttle

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