Virgin Galactic wants you to get up close with SpaceShipTwo rocket motor

It was donated to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
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Sean Keane
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Back of SpaceShipTwo Rocket Motor that went to space in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

The hybrid rocket motor from Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo will be on display in Washington, DC, in 2024. Until then, it'll remain in Chantilly, Virginia.

Eric Long/Courtesy of the Smithsonian's

Virgin Galactic wants the world to see the rocket motor that brought SpaceShipTwo to space.

Richard Branson's commercial spaceflight company made history with the craft, named VSS Unity, when it skimmed the edge of space in December.

The rocket motor was donated to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, the company announced on Monday, and it'll be exhibited in its Future of Spaceflight gallery.

Unfortunately, that gallery doesn't open until 2024 so the motor will be displayed at the museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, for now. It's likely the Smithsonian will gather items from other private spaceflight companies, like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, in the meantime.

Watch this: Virgin space plane skims the edge of space

"The desire to explore space has been an inspiration since time began and, in recent decades, an incredible catalyst for innovation," Branson said in a release. 

"I hope our donation will also play a small part in inspiring the thousands of visitors as they pass through the new gallery in years to come."

Virgin Galactic ultimately plans to take up space tourists, with Branson saying last summer he intends to be one of the first passengers. We also know that they'll be wearing Under Armor gear.

The test flight in December put Virgin Galactic a step ahead in the private space tourism race. SpaceX has ambitious plans to carry passengers around the moon and Blue Origin is conducting rocket tests, but both rival companies have yet to carry humans into space.

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First published Feb. 11, 2019, 8:51 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:48 p.m. PT: Adds more background information.