Virgin Galactic Unveils Next-Generation Space Plane

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 - 9:56AM
Science News
Tuesday, 23 February 2016 - 9:56AM
Virgin Galactic Unveils Next-Generation Space Plane
After their tragic setback in 2014, Virgin Galactic has finally revealed their next-generation space plane, the SpaceShipTwo, which was christened by a baby, named by Stephen Hawking, and tested by everyone's favorite space pilot: Han Solo himself.



The second-generation space plane was unveiled by Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson at a ceremony on Friday. The sub-orbital plane will send paying customers rocketing into space for four minutes of weightlessness. Hawking dubbed the space plane "Virgin Spaceship Unity," and said in a video message that he would like to ride in the spaceship one day.



Harrison Ford was also present for the ceremony, and even got to sit in the cockpit with Virgin Galactic chief pilot Dave Mackay (see above). Ford didn't speak at the ceremony, but Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate who advocates for young girls in Pakistan to receive an education and famously survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, had a few words:

Opening quote
"I'm so excited for the unveiling of the spacecraft," Yousafzai said over video message (via Space.com). "It's such a great work, and it's a way that we are inspiring young people in this whole world to explore more, to go farther and to have no boundaries."
Closing quote

The spaceship was christened by Branson's granddaughter, Eva-Deia, who broke a bottle of milk over the VSS Unity (with her mother's help). It also happened to be Eva-Deia's first birthday, so the audience at the ceremony sang "Happy Birthday" to her.

Virgin Galactic

This is Virgin Galactic's second attempt to build a space plane after the first VSS broke apart in orbit in October 2014, killing pilot Michael Ashbury and seriously injuring co-pilot Peter Siebold. But now, it's full steam ahead, and Branson assured the crowd that there will be rigorous testing of the new spaceship before it takes humans into space, as well as more failsafes to prevent a tragedy from happening again.
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