Good news for rich guys with spaceman fantasies: Virgin Galactic is on track to start launching commercial space flights in 2009, and they just announced their new spaceship designs.
SpaceShipTwo is the spaceship that'll actually go into space, while White Knight Two is the plane that'll bring it up high enough to launch itself away. SpaceShipTwo will be able to tote eight people at a time into sub-orbit, two pilots and six passengers, each of whom will pay $US200,000 for the right to be one of the few humans to see the earth from above.
The White Knight Two is already almost complete, with testing scheduled for later this year, while SpaceShipTwo is about 60% complete. The flights will take off from the Spaceport that Virgin Galactic is building in the New Mexico desert. As much as I'd like to say $200,000 is a ridiculous amount to spend on a flight into space, you know what? If I had so much money that $200,000 wasn't a big deal, I would be all over this. Hey, Branson! How's about a press preview flight, hmm? Good reviews can be bought with free trips to space. [Virgin Galactic via BBC]