back to article Virgin Galactic trumpets SpaceShipTwo

Virgin Galactic yesterday unveiled its SpaceShipTwo (SS2) passenger-carrying rocketplane in a lavish* ceremony at New Mexico's "Spaceport America". The SS2 roll-out. Pic: Virgin Galactic SS2 rolled out slung under the WhiteKnightTwo mothership, which will eventually carry it aloft to 50,000ft before the pair part company …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
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    it looks like three 'planes glued together.

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    It's my birthday soon...

    hint, hint...

    Ah yes, the one with the goldfish bowl, please!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why would anybody pay that much money to experience zero G for a few seconds?

    Actually it's obvious. It's nothing to do with the experience is it? It's all about bragging rights.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having seen the pictures

    Of the three "hulls" together I believe it only right that I should christen the aircraft

    "Three Beagles"

    - this exemplifying an earlier approach to discovery of new worlds, and less about making cash for the bearded jumper wearer and his offshore trusts.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    But does this one

    stop at Milton Keynes?

  6. Anonymous Coward


    Would it be possible to develop this into a kind of temporary shuttle? I'm thinking that it would need some extra juice to get it up to orbital speed (say, 17500mph) and altitude (about 200miles), along with a docking connector. It could then be used to ferry people to/from the ISS.

    OK, it wouldn't have the payload capability of the shuttle, but it would (probably) be orders of magnitude cheaper per launch and might suffice when the shuttle fleet is retired.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd
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      Re: Question

      It would take a *lot* more effort to gain orbit . IIRC about 18,000MPH. SS2 will only just top 2000mph, and that's almost straight up, you have to do the 18,0000 MPH *around* the Earth to gain orbit.

      Even if you did get the thing into obit, it wouldn't make it back down again. In fact there would be almost nothing left. Hitting the atmosphere at around 16,000MPH from orbit is a *lot* different to re-entering from one of Space Ship 2's glorified thrill ride hops, which is why the shuttle is covered in all of those ceramic tiles.

    2. Joe Cooper


      I've noticed a pattern. Whenever someone uses the blue scientist face icon, they're about to say something completely retarded, sprinkled with eloquence and numbers that don't reflect reality.

      NO it can't go to orbit. It will need extra stage, many millions of dollars per flight and if you did get that thing to orbit, it won't come back in one piece; the heat and headwind of reentry _will_ destroy it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
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    Branding frenzy

    Typical Virgin junket - lots of brandomaniac marketing to backup lack of substance. Let's see the damn thing fly first. Its engine and fuselage layout are a step backward from White Knight 1 which was a classical scaled composites job - truly revolutionary.

  8. Yorkshirepudding

    all together now....

    its been a long road getting from there to here....

  9. Pete 43
    Thumb Down

    Zero G?

    I can get that much cheaper at Sarf end seafront, innit.

  10. andy gibson

    Its called the Enterprise....

    So we need to know which captain is the astronaut's favourite. My money in on Picard.

  11. multipharious

    It doesn't even go into space...

    Normally I get pretty into stuff like this, but this is like calling the Heathrow Express the International. The only thing Galactic about Mister Branson's sub-orbital flyer is that it happens to be on our planet. The name should provide for some good mirth in the history classes.

    It's cool as a PoC, and I hope it inspires other ventures with more of a chance of getting me to the Moon, or actually out into orbit for a few days and a bit of zero G mischief.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    (Talks to camera.) So there I was in the Mojave desert with Governors Richardson and Schwarzenegger, with Richard Branson unveiling his new spaceship, and then Above and Beyond played an impromptu concert. Which was nice.

  13. Douglas Fingles

    Not at Shuttle Replacement

    The VSS Enterprise is strictly sub-orbital in design and application. The airframe could not handle the stresses of de-orbiting (heat from friction, turbulence, etc). Second, the Enterprise doesn't have the room for engines/propellant needed to boost it to orbital velocities. It would also have to be redesigned for additional life support, power, and manuevering. Although a beautiful design, it could not be used to visit the ISS.

  14. No, I will not fix your computer


    >>Why would anybody pay that much money to experience zero G for a few seconds?

    It's not a few seconds (you're thinking of simple parabolic descent)

    >>Actually it's obvious. It's nothing to do with the experience is it? It's all about bragging rights.

    experience->bragging rights (it's all the same, doesn't mean it's not fun at the time), if it cost the same as a funfair then most people would have a go at some point in their lives, but as it's not I'd probably find loads of other things to do with my money.

    Besides, is it really space? or are we selling London bridge to the Americans?

  15. Andy 97
    Thumb Up

    Above & Beyond

    Thank goodness they had the good sense to get A&B to do the DJ work.

    The track is Buzz by Tranquillity Base trance fans.......

  16. Neil Stansbury

    More illinformed rubbish...

    @AC : really? - it looks like three 'planes glued together

    That's because it. The fuselages are identical on the WhiteKnight and SS2 and it makes perfect sense. WhiteKnight can simulate the flight plan of the SS2 and do it in an identical cockpit layout - perfect for training. Also only one cockpit design makes for simpler and more reliable construction.

    @AC : Why? - Why would anybody pay that much money to experience zero G for a few seconds?

    Because it's not "a few seconds" - it's 6 minutes of weightlessness.

    @AC - Branding frenzy: Let's see the damn thing fly first

    It has been you idiot - for the last 6 months - that is what yesturdays announcement was about.

    @multipharious : It doesn't even go into space...

    Yes it does, space officially starts at 100Km - SS2 reaches 110 Km apogee.

    Sheesh - have a bunch of Daily Mail readers suddenly started reading El' Reg?

    1. Eponymous Cowherd

      Even more ill informed rubbish....

      ***"@AC : Why? - Why would anybody pay that much money to experience zero G for a few seconds?

      Because it's not "a few seconds" - it's 6 minutes of weightlessness."****

      Which is a mere 360 seconds. That's pretty close to "a few" in my book. And those seconds cost around $550 each.

      ***"@multipharious : It doesn't even go into space...

      Yes it does, space officially starts at 100Km - SS2 reaches 110 Km apogee."***

      Even though SS2 barely reaches the "official" limit of space. It is incapable of staying there, which is, I would suggest, something you would expect a "space ship" to be able to do. Its like jumping off a table and claiming you can fly.

      Or throwing a brick and claiming you've built an aeroplane.

      Yes Space Ship 2 is very clever, but it is really only a thrill ride for the (extremely) wealthy, and can never be anything more.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Eponymous idiot.

        How can 360 just be a 'few' seconds? 6 minutes is a few minutes, but a lot of seconds.

        How about 360 degress in a circle, is that just a few degrees? Nah, its as many as you can get, in a circle.

        Methinks you are just trying to extricate yourself from a distinct lack of thinking before writing.

        What would you suggest a ship that goes in to space be called - whether it can stay there or not? A not-quite-able-to-stay-in-space-ship? Well, doesn't that just roll off the tongue.

        As for an expensive thrill ride? Yes, I guess it is. But its also a good start to a fledgling industry, that will, I hope, incrementally improve performance until orbital spaceflight (immensely more difficult), becomes more common place. The WK2 is also being put forward as a launch platform for orbital rockets, for transport etc, so already the project is bearing fruit in other areas.

        1. Eponymous Cowherd

          Top Man!

          ***"How about 360 degress in a circle, is that just a few degrees? Nah, its as many as you can get, in a circle."***

          Excellent James,

          You call me an idiot and counter my point with a rather hopeless Straw Man. Oh the irony.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Aeroplanes can't fly as they only stay in the air for a few hours!

          Asking a mate for a few quid sounds reasonable, but £360 aint!

    2. James Hughes 1

      What Neil said.....

      It does appear the Daily Fail reader are here and taking over.

      Please think and read before commenting, if you don't you just look like a moron. Which, if that was your intent, is going well - good work.

      One thing to add to Neils accurate precis - WK2 has flown already , SS2 hasn't flown yet. They are about to start testing SS2.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        My exact point

        WK2 + SS2 have not flown together yet and already have way more accidents than the SS1 programme which was a spectacular feat of engineering.

  17. Chris iverson

    Im glad the bearded one...

    Has built this. its a start to an industry that should yield many important benefits. yes its expensive and only a toy for the rich but so was flying 60 years ago.

    1. Mark York 3 Silver badge

      It reminds me of Farscape 1

      & we all know what happened to that craft.

  18. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Possibly the more enduring legacy

    Will be White Knights ability to carry *large* loads up to substantial altitude. This makes it a good launcher for all sorts of rocket or winged vehicles. High altitude launch allows fitting rockets with *very* large expansion nozzles giving quite a good increase in Isp and payload (although not quite eliminating a stage).

  20. Anonymous Coward


    No significant payload. Why do they think Shuttle's lifetime had to be extended? Because it was needed to carry payloads that could not be carried into orbit by any other available transport(including the Russian's).

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Just what we need

    Adopts Grumpy old man posture:

    Another bourgeoning method to waste fuel and create more needless CO2. I suggest they have an 'accident' with the first set of passengers and use their fat as fuel for the second lot. And so on.

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    A note on terms

    Yes Spaceship 2 is a reusable spaceship. It goes to the region above the atmosphere called space, comes back and can be refurbished to go back again.

    It is not an *orbital* reusable space ship. That is nothing to do with its design or definitions but of peoples perceptions.

    OTOH it is 100x cheaper per passenger flight than an *orbital* spaceship like Soyuz. Then again it has to get rid of roughly 1/58 the kinetic energy of the Soyuz.

    While I have no doubt it has been well designed to do its job I don't think for a minute the design can be stretched to orbital. The changes needed are so massive you would junk so much of the vehicle you'd just as well start from a clean sheet.

    BTW as people who build composite stuff know once you've done the moulds knocking out 3 identical copies is as simple as 2. Being identical makes it all more symetrical and (I suspect) makes aerodynamic analysis and control a lot easier.

    Please remember this is *not* the state of the art.

    It is the start of the art.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    FAIL: " 'VSS Enterprise' unveiled at Spaceport America"

    DOUBLE FAIL: Moderator removes comment pointing out that the first line of this story is completely WRONG.

    As I said already. SS2 was built and launched at Mojave in California.

    "Spaceport America" is being built in New Mexico.

    Why not edit the article to correct the factual inaccuracy instead of censoring the comment that points it out?

  24. Anonymous Coward
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    Oh yeah very green.

    So while the rest of us are being told to limit our energy consumption, the super rich can carry on partying.

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