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U.S. Okays Virgin Galactic Spaceship Plans

from Space.com

A go-ahead was given last week by the U.S. that clears the way for exchanges of technical information between Scaled Composites of California and Virgin Galactic of the United Kingdom to build passenger-carrying suborbital spaceliners.

"It allows us to activate all the parts of the project," said Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic, the space tourism subsidiary of Richard Branson's Virgin Group, such as use of technology - SpaceShipOne's reentry concept and hybrid rocket motor design, for example.

The piloted SpaceShipOne, designed by Scaled Composites, repeatedly flew to the edge of space last year, snagging the $10 million Ansari X Prize in the process.

Last month, Branson, announced that he had teamed up with aerospace designer Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites to form a new aerospace production firm: The Spaceship Company, which will build a fleet of commercial suborbital spaceships and launch aircraft. Scaled Composites is to be under contract for research and development testing, as well as certification of a 9-person SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, and a White Knight Two (WK2) mothership to be called Eve.

Whitehorn said that next steps can now be taken to construct SpaceShipTwo, hopefully, in the next 8 months, and all of the things that lead up to building the vehicle.

"The thing that I find really heartening is the willingness on the part of the U.S. government to make sure that this fledgling industry does prosper in the private sector," Whitehorn said, and not to "stifle the baby before it's born."

Launching the space tourism business is projected around 2008, Whitehorn explained, although that date is not carved in stone. The "going rate" for seats onboard Virgin Galactic suborbital spaceships are price tagged at $200,000 each.

"I'm sure we would have sold out at least the first couple of years by the time we start flying," Whitehorn speculated.

How the hell am I going to raise $200k by 2008? And so begins my life of crime...


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