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Virgin Galactic unveils sub-orbital spacecraft (photos)

Virgin Galactic unveils SpaceShipTwo, the world's first commercial manned spaceship, in Mojave, Calif.

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CNET Reviews staff
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1 of 6 Ned RocknRoll

SpaceShipTwo in the hangar

Virgin Galactic on Monday unveiled the world's first commercial manned spaceship in Mojave, Calif.

This spacecraft, which will be capable of carrying up to six passenger astronauts and up to two pilot astronauts on a sub-orbital flight, draws on the engineering developed during the successful flights of SpaceShipOne in 2004, which won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for completion of the world's first manned private space flight.

Once cleared of all U.S regulatory requirements, SpaceShipTwo will be attached to its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, and will fly commercial space tourism flights from Spaceport America in New Mexico with planned commercial launches beginning by 2011.

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2 of 6 Mark Greenber

SpaceShipTwo and VMS Eve before unveil.

SpaceShipTwo and VMS (Virgin Mothership) Eve seen before the unveil. Representing state-of-the-art environmentally sensitive industrial development in their use of carbon composite materials technology, WK2 is powered by four of the most powerful and efficient commercial jet engines available: Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines.

SpaceShipOne will be powered by a unique hybrid rocket motor that is currently being developed.

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3 of 6 Ned RocknRoll

SpaceShipTwo and VMS Eve in hangar

SpaceShipTwo and VMS (Virgin Mothership) Eve in the hangar. WhiteKnightTwo will carry SpaceShipTwo to an altitude above 50,000 feet before the spacecraft is dropped and fires its hybrid rocket motor, burning solid propellant with nitrous oxide, to launch into sub-orbital space, propelling the craft to a speed of 2,500 mph.
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4 of 6 Ned RocknRoll

SpaceShipTwo and VMS Eve in hangar.

SpaceShipTwo and VMS (Virgin Mothership) Eve in the hangar in Mojave, Calif., at the airport where spacecraft-builder Scaled Composites is based. Virgin Galactic hopes to eventually operate a fleet of five of these sub-orbital spacecraft.
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5 of 6 Mark Greenberg

SpaceShipTwo unveils in Mojave,Calif.

SpaceShipTwo at its unveiling Monday in Mojave, Calif.
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6 of 6 Mark Greenberg

Richard Branson, Burt Rutan and Will Whitehorn

Richard Branson, Burt Rutan and Will Whitehorn meet SpaceShipTwo at the hangar in Mojave, Calif. Rutan, left, founder of Scaled Composites said, "All of us at Scaled are tremendously excited by the capabilities of both the mothership and SS2. Today is the culmination of a dream that began many decades ago, was stimulated by Paul Allen's funding of our XPrize-winning SS1 and then moved forward to commercial reality by Sir Richard [Branson] and Virgin's visionary investment in a new future for space transportation."

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