‘Space Ship Two’ Unveiled

Virgin Galactic, a company owned and established by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group in order to create the world’s first commercial spaceline, has unveiled the designs of the Space Ship Two and White Knight Two carrier aircrafts. Space Ship Two is designed to carry six tourists and two pilots into sub-orbit, reaching a speed of just over 3 times the speed of sound and climbing to altitudes of over 360,000 feet. White Knight Two, an all-carbon composite aircraft, is designed to carry and launch Space Ship Two when reaching a height of around 50,000 feet. Commercial space travel never seemed this close.

“Your journey to space will be one of incredible contrast and sensory overload. From the spaceport to 50,000ft, you will be in the spacecraft attached to the mother ship, a specially designed jet carrier aircraft. It will be a time of anticipation and perhaps contemplation of what’s ahead. Then the countdown to release, a brief moment of quiet before a wave of unimaginable but controlled power, surges through the craft. You are instantly pinned back into your seat, overwhelmed but enthralled by the howl of the rocket motor and the eye- watering acceleration which, as you watch the read-out, has you travelling in a matter of seconds, at almost 2500mph, over 3 times the speed of sound“, tease Virgin Galactic.

Only three days of training will be required before taking this journey. Unlike NASA’s manned shuttles, Space Ship Two will be air launched at 50,000 feet from the mother ship White Knight Two. According to Virgin Galactic, this system should make the trip safer and harm the environment less. In addition, Space Ship Two’s rocket propellant system will not have separate solid and liquid rocket boosters/engines but rather a single hybrid rocket motor. The rocket’s motor will combine two key elements – a ‘fuel’ element and an ‘oxidiser’ element, which will be non-reactive and non-toxic.

Space Ship Two is based on the Ansari X Prize winning technology of Space Ship One, the world’s first privately developed and funded manned spacecraft, which was piloted successfully into Space three times. Today, Space Ship One can be found at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.

Space Ship Two has a unique wing feathering system, which eliminates the risks involved in re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. That is done by folding the wings while in Space, providing a “feather” effect that gives the spaceship extremely high drag for reentry. Decelerating for reentry at a higher altitude means that there is no significant heat buildup during re-entry.

The construction of White Knight Two (WK2) is currently close to completion. It is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines and is capable of launching Space Ship Two into sub-orbital Space flight. Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic, added ” we are all very excited about the prospect of being able to develop a bio-fuel solution for the Space launch system and we are looking forward to working with Pratt and Whitney and Virgin Fuels to trial an appropriate bio mix for the PW308A engines that will be powering our new carrier aircraft.”

Initially, tickets will be sold for $200,000. Virgin Galactic seeks to reduce the price as much as possible, to allow more people to enjoy the Space travel experience.

TFOT previously covered the design of the first commercial spaceport, scheduled to be built in New Mexico, U.S.A. TFOT also reported on Genesis II, another milestone in the commercialization of outer space, which brings us a step closer to realizing the dream of a space hotel within the next decade. The possible use of space money also seems closer than ever – The Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination (QUID) is a new revolutionary currency created especially to be used in Space.

More information on Space Ship Two and White Knight Two can be found on Virgin Galactic’s Website.