Sir Richard Branson‘s latest project will take passengers to space and back.
Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, unveiled his latest rocket plane today for outsiders. “This is truly a momentous day,” he said. “The team has created not only a world first, but also a work of art.”
The VSS Enterprise, an eight person vehicle (six passengers, two crewmembers,) had been in development for several years and kept under wraps. It is named after its namesake from Star Trek, and is a successor to a vehicle which flew to space in 2004 and won an Ansari X prize.
A mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo (VMS Eve) will carry the VSS Enterprise to its launch altitude of 50,000 feet. The two-and-a-half hour trips, up and down flights that won’t orbit the earth, will include about five minutes of weightlessness.
The first test flights should begin next year, with full-fledged space launches set to commence in 2011.