Space Ship Two's Predecessor, Space Ship One

Privately owned Virgin Galactic made its first low orbit test flight of its commercial space-plane aptly dubbed “Space Ship Two”on Monday. Its predecessor, Space Ship One, was first launched on August 1, 2002. Space Ship Two, three times the size of the previous model, is designed to fly in a low orbit just on the border of outer space, and then return to Earth, while carrying six paying passengers and two pilots. The space ship will be shaped somewhat like an airplane with upturned wings, and will be capable of reaching speeds of roughly 2,500 mph. The ship can reach an altitude of between 84 and 87 miles. Space Ship Two is carried part way to its destination by a “mothership”, which looks like two planes with their wings attached in the middle. It then engages a hybrid rocket to propel it the rest of the way.  Eventually, Virgin Galactic intends to create a commercial space flight industry, and to design space ships that can enter higher orbits. Once Space Ship Two is finished, thrill-seekers will be allowed to buy tickets for a quick flight into outer space and back. You can see a video of the initial flight here, and a video of the planned future of the Virgin Galactic space ships here.

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