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World's 1st commercial spaceship unveiled

December 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
What's billed as the world's first commercial spaceship has just been unveiled in the California desert.For $200,000, you can have your ticket punched for your ticket to outer space. Billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson is bankrolling the operation.

"Once they're in space, they'll unbuckle their seats, and as you can see, we've got these enormous windows which no spacecraft has ever had before. They can look back at the earth and they can float around and they can become astronauts," said Branson.

Spaceship 2 is about 60 feet long and seats eight, including two pilots. It's attached to the aircraft named, The White Knight, which will take the spaceship up to 60,000 feet and then let it go. Spaceship 2 then hits the gas going about 65 miles above the earth's surface.

In 2007, tragedy struck during a test of the Spaceship 2's propelling system, an explosion occurred and killed three engineers.

Famed aviation designer Burt Ratan is the man behind the design and construction of the spaceship. Already, around 300 passengers have paid for or put down deposits to ride into space. According to Virgin Galactic, the plan is to invest more than $400 million for a fleet of five such spacecrafts and launch vehicles.

"We have an enormous milestone today in unveiling the first commercial man spacecraft, and I look forward to moving into the test program," said Ratan.

"I'm extremely excited. I mean, this is the day that finally, we get a spaceship that's going to be able to carry people from all over the planet to get a view of the world. I'm excited to make part of history," said Natasha Pavlovich, a would-be space traveler.

The plan is to have the spaceship ready for commercial flights by 2011, and it will be taking off from New Mexico where a spaceport is being built.


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