Spaceships That'll Take Passengers To Space In 2009
British billionaire Richard Branson and aerospace designer Burt Rutan unveiled a model Wednesday of SpaceShipTwo, the vehicle they hope will be able to take passengers about 62 miles above Earth for the fun of it, with test flights possibly beginning this year.
"Breathtakingly beautiful" was Branson's assessment of the ship being built in the Mojave Desert.
At the American Museum of Natural History, the pair also showed off a model of the four-engine jet that will help launch the craft into space.
The twin-fuselage airplane, the White Knight Two, will carry SpaceShipTwo into the sky beneath a single 140-foot wing.
The spacecraft, with short wings, a pair of rotating tails and plenty of 18-inch portholes, would then separate from the plane and rocket into space, where up to six passengers and two crew members could unbuckle themselves and experience weightlessness before gliding back to Earth.
Will Whitehorn, president of Branson's space-tourism company, Virgin Galactic, said construction on the White Knight Two is more than 70 percent complete.
Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of Virgin Atlantic airlines, is the product of a multimillion-dollar deal between Branson and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who bankrolled the prototype private spaceship, SpaceShipOne.
SpaceShipTwo is about 60 percent complete, and the company and Rutan's aerospace outfit, Scaled Composites, hope to begin test flights this summer.
About 200 prospective passengers from 30 countries have made reservations, shelling out $200,000 apiece.
to watch the presentation video from Reuters.
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