MOJAVE – Virgin Galactic on Friday unveiled its newly completed SpaceShipTwo. The rollout ceremony in Mojave was attended by Sir Richard Branson and his family, Virgin Galactic’s future astronauts, and partners.
Professor Stephen Hawking named the new vehicle Virgin Spaceship (VSS) Unity via a recorded speech and said, “I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship.”
The ceremony also included a video from Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai emphasizing the importance of space to science and technical education.
The new SpaceShipTwo is the first vehicle to be manufactured by The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s wholly owned manufacturing arm, and is the second vehicle of its design ever constructed. VSS Unity was unveiled in FAITH (Final Assembly Integration Test Hangar), the Mojave-based home of manufacturing and testing for Virgin Galactic’s human space flight program.
The new vehicle’s build process kicked off in 2012 with each component part undergoing rigorous testing before assembly. With VSS Unity now fully manufactured and unveiled, The Spaceship Company will undertake integrated systems verification, followed by ground and flight tests in Mojave and ground and air exercises at its future home in Spaceport America, New Mexico. [View a vehicle fact sheet for the new SpaceShipTwo here.]
SpaceShipTwo is designed to take a crew of two pilots and up to six passengers to space.
Virgin Galactic’s budding commercial spaceline fleet now consists of the spaceship VSS Unity and two carrier aircraft—the WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve for human spaceflight and the 747-400 Cosmic Girl for the LauncherOne small satellite launch service.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said, “Together, we can make space accessible in a way that has only been dreamt of before now, and by doing so can bring positive change to life on Earth. Our beautiful new spaceship, VSS Unity, is the embodiment of that goal and will provide us with an unprecedented body of experience which will in turn lay the foundations for Virgin Galactic’s future.”
Virgin Galactic CEO George T. Whitesides said, “We seek to open space to people from all walks of life, and today’s milestone is big step toward that goal. Outer space is the province of all humanity, and we think it is about time that all of humanity has a chance to explore it: not just pilots but also painters, not just engineers but also everyday explorers.”
Tickets on a SpaceShipTwo flight start at $250,000, and more than 700 tickets have already been sold, according to various media reports.
VSS Unity is the second SpaceShipTwo to be completed. Virgin Galactic’s first SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave Desert during a test flight in October of 2014.
For more information on Virgin Galactic and SpaceShipTwo, visit http://www.virgingalactic.com/.