Virgin Galactic has just unveiled SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), the first set of vehicles they will use to offer commercial sub-orbital spaceflights.
Sir Richard Branson had this to say about the significance of the moment:
“Finally, I think it’s very important that we make a genuine commercial success of this project. If we do, I believe we’ll unlock a wall of private sector money into both space launch systems and space technology. This could rival the scale of investment in the mobile phone and internet technologies after they were unlocked from their military origins and thrown open to the private sector.The first WK2 'mothership' will be named after Sir Richard's mother, Eve, whilst the first SS2 will be called Enterprise (after the main starship in the Star Trek shows and movies).
So, Burt, congratulations on designing and building a system that will allow thousands of people to realize their dreams and that will act as a catalyst to transform human access to space. In your usual way, you have also managed to create something which is breathtakingly beautiful – so Burt, please come up and join me onstage, and let’s take a look.”
For Australian space tourists there is further good news as Spencer Travel will be representing Virgin Galactic in Australia and offering space tours to Australians. One Australian woman (see bottom of article) has already made it into the Founders list (the first 100 passengers). It has been reported by NEWS.com.au that Sir Richard would like to see their second spaceport setup in Australia:
“What part Australia has to play in the commercialisation of space, beyond supplying astronauts, remains to be seen. Branson said in 2006 that he would like to see the company's second spaceport set up in Australia.”