Friday, February 19, 2016

Richard Branson Unveils Virgin Galatic's Second SpaceShipTwo

Virgin Spaceship Unity is unveiled in FAITH (Final Assembly Integration Test Hangar) in Mojave, California on Friday February 19th, 2016.  Credit: Virgin Galactic / Mark Greenberg

MOJAVE, California - Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson unveiled the space tourism company's second SpaceShipTwo spaceship during a ceremony on Friday in Mojave, CA. 

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. The first SpaceShipTwo was destroyed in a 2014 crash that killed one Virgin Galactic pilot while the other pilot was able to eject from the spacecraft and survive.

In a recorded speech, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking named the new vehicle Virgin Spaceship (VSS) Unity and said, “I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship.” Branson's one-year-old granddaughter Christened VSS Unity with a bottle of milk.

Sir Richard Branson's one-year-old granddaughter Christened VSS Unity with a bottle of milk. Credit: Virgin Galactic / Jack Brockway

VSS Unity is designed to take a crew of two pilots and up to six passengers to just beyond the edge of space. Virgin Galactic’s space flight experience features an air launch after being released from the carrier ship, WhiteKnightTwo, followed by a rocket-powered ascent at three and a half times the speed of sound to 100 kilometers above the Earth where several minutes of out-of-seat weightlessness can be experienced by the passengers.

“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," Branson said. "Our beautiful new spaceship, VSS Unity, is the embodiment of that goal also great testament to what can be achieved when true teamwork, great skill and deep pride are combined with a common purpose.”

Actor and Pilot Harrison Ford listens to Virgin Galactic chief pilot Dave Mackay inside the cockpit of the new SpaceShipTwo. Credit: Virgin Galactic / Mark Greenberg