Virgin Galactic owned by Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments PJS, unveiled its newly completed SpaceShipTwo spaceplane, during a ceremony attended by Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts, and partners on Friday.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.
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.”
|(c) 2016 Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic|
The first prototype was lost in a fatal accident in Oct 2014, when co-pilot unlocked the feathering system prematurely, leading to uncommanded deployment of the system and in-flight break up of the vehicle.
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.
VSS Unity featured a new silver and white livery and was guided into position by one of the company’s support Range Rovers, provided by its exclusive automotive partner Land Rover.
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.
The Spaceship Company has already started work on the next SpaceShipTwo.
Based on the smaller 2004 X-PRIZE winning SpaceShipOne designed by Burt Rutan, SpaceShipTwo is designed to take a crew of two pilots and up to six passengers to space.
The all composite spaceplane has a length of 60 feet and a wingspan of 42 ft. The 12 ft long and 90 inch diameter cabin has approximately the same size of a Dassault Falcon 900 business jet.
A controllable hybrid rocket powers the plane, after release from carrier aircraft during its ascent to
space. The re-entry and landing are without propulsion. It can go supersonic within eight seconds of rocket ignition with a maximum velocity of more than Mach 3.5.
Independent flight time can be up to 30 minutes, with total flight time ranging from 1.5 to 2 hours.
Virgin Galactic’s budding commercial spaceline fleet now consists of the spaceship VSS Unity and two dedicated carrier aircraft—the WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve for human spaceflight and the 747-400 Cosmic Girl for the LauncherOne small satellite launch service.
To date, 700 men and women from over 50 countries—greater than the total number of humans who have ever been to space—have reserved places to fly on Virgin Galactic’s reusable space launch system, consisting of carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo and spacecraft SpaceShipTwo.
SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo are manufactured and tested in Mojave, California by its manufacturing wing, The Spaceship Company. Spaceflight operations will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.
Virgin Galactic is also developing LauncherOne, an affordable dedicated ride to orbit for small satellites. As an air-launched rocket, LauncherOne is designed to provide commercial and government-built satellites a flexible launch service that meets each customer’s specific mission requirements.
LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and launches will be conducted from various locations by its dedicated 747-400 carrier.