Virgin Galactic SpaceshipTwo, VSS UNITY: World's First Commercial Space Plane

A subsidiary company (Virgin Galactic) of Richard Branson's multi-billion dollar company, Virgin Atlantic has announced its new success in the development of the world's first commercial space vehicle.

Virgin galactic spaceship

Virgin Galactic's race to become the first major private space tourism company just got closer to reality.
After more than three years of construction, Richard Branson's company unveiled the new spaceship Friday at the Mojave Air & Space Port in California. It is a replacement for the one that crashed in 2014, killing a test pilot.

Physicist Stephen Hawking named the new vehicle Virgin Spaceship (VSS) Unity in a recorded speech and on Twitter.

"I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship," Hawking said.

Branson said the new vehicle means space can be made accessible in a way that has only been dreamed about before.

Virgin galactic spaceship

The six-passenger craft will carry six passengers on a five-minute journey into suborbital space, reaching altitudes of 100km.

The space plane is to be suspended and held by two support planes at either ends. In order to reach the edge of space, Virgin Galactic's system relies on a "mothership", the White Knight Two. This large, fixed-wing aircraft has two hulls connected by a central wing and is used to deliver the spacecraft to around 50,000 feet, at which points it detaches and fires rockets (as in supersonic plane) to reach the edge of space. Those aboard experience four minutes of weightlessness before SpaceShipTwo glides back to Earth.

Virgin galactic spaceship

According to reports, people have already begun booking tickets. Tickets for the trip cost $250,000 equivalent to NGN78.5 million. 

Although Virgin isn't the only private company aiming for space, Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin also have ambitious plans.

See video of the SpaceshipTwo in action:

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