behold the shape of things to come. hopefully…

Virgin Galactic has unveiled the first prototype of SpaceShipTwo, the vehicle that will take tourists to the edge of space.

spaceshiptwo

After years of secrecy and bold talk from Richard Branson, the first commercial spacecraft for sub-orbital flight and its carrier craft have been unveiled to the public. SpaceShipTwo is the size of a large cabin private jet and will accelerate to 2,600 mph with its hybrid rocket motor, reaching a maximum altitude of 68 miles. Hundreds of aspiring space tourists have lined up for the $200,000 tickets so far and the spacecraft is scheduled to take its first paying customers above the Karman line sometime in 2011. It seems that the future has finally arrived.

Should SpaceShipTwo succeed, it will be followed by an orbital craft which could take space tourists to orbital hotels and take us one step close to single stage to orbit flight (SSTO) and by then, space travel should be far more affordable since the spacecraft will have a chance to pay for themselves, be entirely reusable, and made in bulk to achieve economies of scale. An even better upside is the amount of jobs that will be needed to keep the space tourism industry going once it becomes profitable. Virgin Galactic says that some 12,500 jobs have already been created by space tourism start-ups, and considering who’s being hired, many of them are the very kind of science and engineering jobs the U.S. desperately needs to stay ahead in global R&D.

If space tourism proves to be a big, viable business with applications in entertainment, commerce, and work carried out by space agencies, it could provide a slow and steady expansion in high tech occupations and the economy at large. I sincerely hope the space tourism business works out better than the wildest dreams of all the rocketeers building suborbital spacecraft and planning space hotels. Trying to explore space and to build a business which encourages our sense of wonder, excitement and exploration, is an admirable goal and it’s one of those concepts which rewards those who really want to do something noble and inspiring for humanity with cold, hard cash. And it just doesn’t get any better than that…

# space // business / commercial spaceflight / space tourism / space travel


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