As a proponent and innovator of space travel, Sir Richard Branson has unveiled SpaceShipTwo, which is the first vehicle manufactured by Virgin Galactic’s The Spaceship Company. The ceremony showcasing the aircraft was attended by Branson, his family, Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts and partners.
Professor Stephen Hawking named the vehicle “Virgin Spaceship (VSS) Unity” and said through a recorder that,
I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship.
SpaceShipTwo is also the second one of its design ever built, featuring a new silver and white livery. The construction process began in 2012 with every component undergoing strict testing before actual assembly.
The next step will be various verifications of integrated systems, with ground and flight testings in Mojave, ground and air exercises in Spaceport America, New Mexico. The VSS was disclosed in FAITH (Final Assembly Integration Test Hangar,) where Virgin Galactic’s human space flight program has been manufactured and tested.
SpaceShipTwo’s design is an evolution from the smaller 2004 X-PRIZE winning SpaceShpOne created by Burt Rutan. The new spacecraft can hold two pilot crews and a maximum of six passengers. The experience of space flight begins with an air launch, a rocket-powered ascent 3.5 times the speed of sound, the silence of space, minutes of out-of-seat floatability, and numerous window views of the Earth.
Hawking further expresses:
A man with the vision and persistence to open up space flight for ordinary, earth-bound citizens, Richard Branson made it his mission to make space flight a reality for those intrepid enough to venture beyond the boundaries of the Earth’s atmosphere. I have had ALS for over fifty years now and while I have no fear of adventure, others do not always take the same view. If I am able to go – and if Richard will still take me, I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship. Space exploration has already been a great unifier – we seem able to cooperate between nations in space in a way we can only envy on Earth. We are entering a new space age and I hope this will help to create a new unity.
Currently, the Spaceship Company has began work on the next SpaceShipTwo.
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