Virgin Atlantics Branson To Unveil Suborbital Spaceplane

12.07.09 | FL News Team

Virgin Galactic takes another step forward today in its plan to begin offering commercial flights some 60 miles above the earth in 2011. Billionaire Virgin Group owner Richard Branson will be onhand in the Mojave desert for the unveiling of SpaceShip Two.

To show off its capabilities, the SS2 will be carried high into the sky by a so-called mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo, before detaching and blasting off to near orbit. The price for one of its six passenger seats is just over 200-thousand dollars. That hasn't put off some 300 daredevils from around the world who've RSVP'd for a flight in 2011 or 2012. They've forked over a collective 40-million dollars in deposits to be among the first to fly from Hong Kong to London in only three hours. Those onboard the SS2 will experience five minutes of weightlessness inside a cabin that boats windows on all sides as well as the celing.

 Aerospace engineering whiz Burt Rutan designed the carbon composite craft, which resembles three corporate jets stuck side-by-side sharing a single pair of wings. Virgin Galactic is a joint venture by music store mogul Sir Richard Branson and Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments.