SpaceShipTwo designs moving forwad

Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites engineering crew has locked down designs and started laying up carbon fiber for two new craft: a supersize SpaceShipTwo plus a reconceived White Knight Two mother ship to haul it aloft.

This is encouraging news for billionaire mogul Richard Branson. His Virgin Galactic spaceline, the front runner in a crowded field of space-tourism initiatives that includes the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin, has ordered five SS2s and two WK2s in a short-term exclusive deal.

Rutan’s progress is also bound to please the more than 100 wannabe astronauts who have shelled out up to $200,000 each to reserve a seat — Elon Musk of SpaceX among them. Sources expect a rollout early next year, followed by at least 12 months of testing. The first commercial passenger flights into space might start as soon as 2009.

Like its X Prize-winning predecessor, SpaceShipTwo will fling passengers to the edge of space at 3,000 mph. But while the original craft was barely a three-seater, the new version is designed for six passengers and two pilots. New features maximize the wow factor: bigger windows, more room for weightless floating, and Virgin-cool details sprinkled throughout.

Source:  Wired

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