Branson unveils new rocket to take thrill-seekers into space

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It will cost a rather pricey 250,000 US dollars but it is a trip which is the stuff of childhood dreams offering a chance to take thrill-seekers into space.

Sir Richard Branson’s new Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, is designed to take tourists on the trip of a lifetime as the company pushes ahead in the race to send passengers into space.

SpaceShipTwo’s arrival signals a return to testing for Virgin Galactic, the arm of the tycoon’s empire that wants to offer the public a chance to see what it is like to be an astronaut. Admitting the flight into space would be a short one, Sir Richard told BBC Breakfast the initial trips would not be “enormously long” as they are suborbital space flights, but with “spectacular views”.

“In time we will go on to doing orbital flights, which could be as long as two or three weeks,” he added. “One day we would love to build a Virgin hotel in space.”

The big reveal of the “mothership”, was set to happen in California tonight.

SpaceShipTwo’s arrival signals a return to testing for Virgin Galactic, the arm of the tycoon’s empire that hopes to be the first to take tourists into space.

Test co-pilot Michael Alsbury died when a prototype broke apart over the Mojave desert. A probe by the National Transportation Safety Body found the crash was caused by a catastrophic structural failure triggered when the co-pilot unlocked the craft’s braking system early.

Sir Richard told Good Morning Britain: “Obviously it was a horrendous day when it happened and I must admit we had moments where I questioned if we should carry on.

“Talking to engineers and astronauts and family members and the public, we got all the feedback and it was apparent there was no way we could stop,” he added.

Seats on the ride, which can carry six passengers at a time, will cost 250,000 US dollars - around £174,500 - with more than 700 people said to have signed up so far. Total flight time of the trip will be around two hours, which includes a 60-minute journey from take-off to release from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier at approximately 50,000ft.

Virgin Galactic have said passengers on the craft will experience the “unique thrills of spaceflight, enjoying the opportunity to leave seats to float in zero gravity for several minutes”.

And as part of the suborbital flight cost, the whole journey will be captured on film so that each astronaut has a “unique record of history in the making”.

Sir Richard Branson has said that he hopes the price of tickets will fall over time.

He said people “expect companies like Virgin to push forward” and that after the unveiling, rigorous testing will take place over the next 12 months.

“We will send people to space once pilots have tested the ship time and time and time again,” Sir Richard told the ITV show.

The team behind the latest suborbital spaceplane includes leaders from Nasa’s mission control and astronaut corps, the militaries from three nations and from the top flight of the aviation and transport industries.