Virgin Galactic unveils Spaceshiptwo
SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and its mothership, VMS Eve (WhiteKnightTwo) herald a new era in commercial space flight with daily space tourism flights set to commence from Spaceport America in New Mexico after test program and all required US government licensing.
SpaceShipTwo uses all the same basic technology, carbon composite construction and design as SpaceShipOne. However it is around twice as large as that vehicle and will carry six passengers and two pilots. It is 60ft long with a 90" diameter cabin which is similar in size to a Falcon 900 executive jet albeit with no floor dissecting the cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows: WINDOW SIZE one side window and one overhead, so that, if you don't want to float free in space, and you'd rather just remain in your seat, you still get a great chance to see the view. No more squabbling over who has the best seat!
The spaceship can be thought of as an air launched glider with a rocket motor and a couple of extra systems for spaceflight. Just like any conventional flying machine, it requires aerodynamic forces to provide its stability and control which, clearly, it only has whilst in the atmosphere. In space it follows a purely ballistic trajectory, but here it can use small thrusters known as the reaction control system (RCS) which allow the pilots to maneuver the vehicle in space and provide a changing view for the passenger astronauts.
The spaceship is powered by a hybrid rocket motor. This type of system is not a new idea but offers important safety and environmental advantages over liquid or solid systems that are more commonly used on manned space vehicles. In particular, it means that the pilots will be able to shut down the SpaceShipTwo rocket motor at any time during its operation and glide safely back to the runway.
Spaceshiptwo at Virgin Galactic site