By Evan Ackerman
Isn’t she a beauty? This is Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, the solar system’s first commercial passenger spaceship that we know of. It was just announced on Wednesday, along with its mothership, White Knight 2. SpaceShipTwo is designed to ferry 6 civilian passengers and 2 crewmembers 68 miles above the surface of the earth, where they’ll spend a few precious minutes in weightlessness, drinking in the view, before descending back to the ground at a peak force of 6 gravities over 20 seconds. All for just $200,000.
More info and pics after the jump.
While SpaceShipTwo is certainly the star of the show, its carrier, White Knight 2, is nothing to sneeze at either. It’s currently 70% complete, and is shaping up to be the largest all carbon composite aircraft in the world when it’s finished this summer. You’ve probably noticed that it’s basically two aircraft joined at the wing; it reminds me a bit of the WW2-era German Heinkel He 111 Z, which was two He 111 medium bombers joined by a fifth engine, designed to tow the huge Messerschmitt Me 321 glider (vid of this here). But I digress. The wingspan of the White Knight 2 will be comparable to a B-29 Superfortress (140 ft). The dual fuselages are functionally identical to the interior of SpaceShipTwo, and they’ll be used to train passengers with parabolic zero-g maneuvers. Apparently, White Knight 2 is also able to ferry satellites up to a 50,000 foot release altitude.
The $200,000 USD pricetag includes three days of training at Spaceport America out in New Mexico before your flight. If the price seems a bit steep, that’s because it’s “introductory.” Think, early adopter premium. Early adopters of transatlantic flights in 1939, for example, paid the equivalent of something like $40,000 one way. About 5 years after things get underway, the price should drop. How far? Who knows… My guess is that demand is going to be high enough that you won’t be able to blow your holiday bonus on a trip to space. We can dream, though, can’t we?