For some, the dream of shrugging off earth’s seeming inescapable pull just got a big step closer. Sir Richard Branson has just finished the grand unveiling of his first commercial space craft in the Mojave desert.
At the naming ceremony, the ship was christened ‘EVE’ in honour of Branson’s mother. Aside from a potentially lucrative way for Branson to earn more cash, the White Knight II series of aircraft represents ground-breaking leap forward in aerospace technology. It is the largest completely carbon fibre aircraft in the world.
WK2 has a wingspan of 140 feet, much larger than its White Knight 1 predecessor. The wing is also made from a single piece from end to end making it the longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured.
The craft is capable of reaching heights of 50,000 feet or 9.5 miles (a third higher than that of a Boeing 747). It’s not done there though. Once it has reached that altitude, it will release SpaceShipTwo – an aircraft badly in need of a better name – to complete its ascent to a far more impressive 360,000 feet (68 miles) right to the edge of outer space and giving a weightlessness experience to its wealthy passengers.
Obviously weightlessness and potential G-force induced nausea make the prospect of serving food a problem so Branson has decide that there will be no food on board at all. I can’t believe it – all that money and no chance of flicking Zero-G peanuts at other passengers. Rip off!
SpaceShipTwo will carry up to six passengers along with two pilots. It is capable of carrying more, but Sir Richard didn’t see a lot of point in building it with anything other than window seats. So far 270 passengers have booked their places and are starting to prepare themselves for the G forces of the flight. That said, because the flight is sub-orbital, it will only go up to between 2-3Gs instead of the full 5Gs (anyone who cares to explain that is very welcome to), which does make it suitable for older people.
The next ship will be named “Spirit of Steve Fosset” after the missing American aviator.