Branson Unveils Virgin's New Spaceship "Unity"
Virgin Galactic unveiled its newly completed SpaceShipTwo in a rollout ceremony late last week at their Mojave Air & Space Port FAITH facility. The event was attended by Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Galactic team and actor/pilot Harrison Ford (see photos below videos).
Professor Stephen Hawking named the new vehicle Virgin Spaceship (VSS) Unity via a recorded speech (see video below) and said, “I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship.” The ceremony also included a video congratulations from Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai emphasizing the importance of space to science and technical education.
VSS Unity was unveiled in FAITH (Final Assembly Integration Test Hangar), the Mojave- based home of manufacturing and testing for Virgin Galactic’s human space flight program. VSS Unity featured a new silver and white livery and was guided into position by one of the company’s support Range Rovers, provided by its exclusive automotive partner Land Rover.
According to a Virgin Galactic statement, "The new vehicle’s build process kicked off in 2012 with each component part undergoing rigorous testing before assembly. With VSS Unity now fully manufactured and unveiled, The Spaceship Company will undertake integrated systems verification, followed by ground and flight tests in Mojave and ground and air exercises at its future home in Spaceport America, New Mexico. The Spaceship Company has already started work on the next SpaceShipTwo. Based on the smaller 2004 X-PRIZE winning SpaceShipOne designed by Burt Rutan, SpaceShipTwo is designed to take a crew of two pilots and up to six passengers to space. Virgin Galactic’s space flight experience features an air launch followed by a rocket-powered ascent at three and a half times the speed of sound, the silence of space, several minutes of out-of-seat weightlessness and multiple windowed views of our home planet. Virgin Galactic’s budding commercial spaceline fleet now consists of the spaceship VSS Unity and two dedicated carrier aircraft—the WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve for human spaceflight and the 747-400 Cosmic Girl for the LauncherOne small satellite launch service."
(quotes from Branson, Virgin Galactic CEO Whitesides, Spaceship Company President Shane and more from Professor Hawking on page 2)
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said, “Together, we can make space accessible in a way that has only been dreamt of before now, and by doing so can bring positive change to life on Earth. Our beautiful new spaceship, VSS Unity, is the embodiment of that goal and will provide us with an unprecedented body of experience which will in turn lay the foundations for Virgin Galactic’s future. Her creation is also great testament to what can be achieved when true teamwork, great skill and deep pride are combined with a common purpose.”
Virgin Galactic CEO George T. Whitesides said, “We seek to open space to people from all walks of life, and today’s milestone is big step toward that goal. Outer space is the province of all humanity, and we think it is about time that all of humanity has a chance to explore it: not just pilots but also painters, not just engineers but also everyday explorers.”