A spacecraft designed to rocket wealthy tourists into space as early as 2011 was unveiled Monday in what backers of the venture hope will signal a new era in aviation history.
The long-awaited glimpse of SpaceShipTwo marks the first public appearance of a commercial passenger spacecraft. The project is bankrolled by Virgin Galactic founder, British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who partnered with famed aviation designer , the brains behind the venture.
“We want this program to be a whole new beginning in a commercial era of space travel,” Branson said.
He is hopeful that they can begin the flights sometime in 2011, only after a series of rigorous safety tests. Branson said he, his family and Rutan would be the first people to make the trip to space aboard the craft.
SpaceShipTwo is based on Rutan’s design of a stubby white prototype called SpaceShipOne. In 2004, SpaceShipOne captured the $10 million Ansari X Prize by becoming the first privately manned craft to reach space.
Since the historic feat, engineers from Rutan’sLLC have been laboring in a Mojave Desert hangar to commercialize the prototype in heavy secrecy. Some 300 clients have paid the $200,000 ticket or placed a deposit, according to the company. …
via Virgin Galactic unveils commercial spaceship – Yahoo! News.