Photos: A tour of SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic's passenger craft

Photos: A tour of SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic's passenger craft

Summary: The world's first civilian passenger spacecraft is on show at Farnborough International Airshow this week. ZDNet went down to check out the full-size replica of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, which could be taking its first passengers to the edge of space as early as next year

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TOPICS: Nasa / Space
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  • More than 500 people have signed up to travel on SpaceShipTwo, including Ashton Kutcher, star of the TV show Two and a Half Men.

    The carbon composite craft is 60 feet long and can carry six passengers and two pilots.

    It's designed to launch from a mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, at around 50,000 feet and will use a hybrid rocket motor to ascend to the edge of space.

    The ship will travel high enough to give passengers a glimpse of the curvature of the earth.

    Photo: Nick Heath

  • SpaceShipTwo passengers will have to undergo a week of training to cope with the high g-force during launch and re-entry and how to move around in microgravity.

    Training will take place at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

    Photo: Nick Heath

  • After SpaceShipTwo begins running commercially, Virgin Galactic will launch about one mission per week, with the number of launches gradually increasing over time, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides told ZDNet.

    Virgin Galactic has built two SpaceShipTwos — three including this replica — and Whitesides said that the company hopes to build more.

    Photo: Nick Heath

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Topic: Nasa / Space

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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7 comments
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  • Nice pictures

    This statement seems a bit off though:

    "The combination of high drag and low weight, due to the very light materials used to construct the vehicle, means that the skin temperature during re-entry stays very low compared to previous manned spacecraft. Thermal protection systems such as heat shields or tiles are not needed."

    The lack of need for heat shields has a lot to do with the much lower speeds it is descending at relative to braking from orbit. Geosync orbital velocity is something like 6800 mph. Peak re-entry speed for SS1 was about one-third of that.

    If it were coming in from orbit like the shuttle, soyuz, or dragon, it would likely need heat shielding.
    SlithyTove
    • I think the statement still stands.

      Even basic ballistic tests that achieve 60-120 seconds of 0G will use an ablative entry coating as a heat shield. Because these ballistic capsules have a pretty low drag coefficient, the high level atmosphere does little to slow them down until the more dense lower atmosphere is hit. This results in a a very fast rise of temperatures.

      The design of SS 2 might be ably to use the very thin upper atmosphere to actually slow its decent earlier in the flight profile.
      Bruizer
      • Certainly part of the equation

        Slowing earlier is certainly helping. But for the most part "other manned spacecraft" doesn't make for a valid comparison since they were built for achieving and slowing from orbital speed rather than dropping more or less straight down.

        The only craft that I know of that is really a valid comparison is the X-15 which did not receive any heat coating until its second generation, well after it had achieved sub orbital space flight.
        SlithyTove
        • Project Mercury

          Suborbital. Heat shields.

          Having worked on these things 20 years ago, the slowing down early would really help.

          so yes, lighter and greater brag helps negate the need of tiles/heat shields.
          Bruizer
          • Learn something new every day.

            I always thought of Mercury as orbital for some reason.

            Think something similar would work for orbital speeds like the shuttles 16k mph?
            SlithyTove
    • I think the statement still stands.

      Even basic ballistic tests that achieve 60-120 seconds of 0G will use an ablative entry coating as a heat shield. Because these ballistic capsules have a pretty low drag coefficient, the high level atmosphere does little to slow them down until the more dense lower atmosphere is hit. This results in a a very fast rise of temperatures.

      The design of SS 2 might be ably to use the very thin upper atmosphere to actually slow its decent earlier in the flight profile.
      Bruizer
  • The Real Housewives of Deep Space 9

    All well and good yes....but, I will still be able to check my Twitter and use WiFi right?? LOL!!!
    James Keenan