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Virgin Galactic mothership debuts at AirVenture

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July 29, 2009

Virgin Galactic's 'mothership' VMS Eve cruises over Lake Winnebago on its first public fli...

Virgin Galactic's 'mothership' VMS Eve cruises over Lake Winnebago on its first public flight (Photos: Mark Greenberg)

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If Richard Branson turns up somewhere, you can be fairly certain there’ll be a photo opportunity attached. But Branson’s appearance on Monday at EAA Airventure, the world’s largest private air show, was more than a PR stunt. It also marked the first public flight of Virgin Galactic’s “Mothership” Eve, and signaled space tourism is now closer than ever.

The largest all-composite aircraft ever built, the twin hull VMS Eve (named after Branson’s mother) has the slightly bizarre appearance of two planes joined at the wingtip – Siamese planes, if you like. The aircraft is designed to carry SpaceShipTwo above 50,000 feet and then release it to blast into space at four times the speed of sound.

VMS Eve has already flown 16 times, logging over 50 hours and reaching altitudes above 52,000 feet, but this was Sir Richard’s first flight on the aircraft. Interestingly, the starboard hull is not pressurized, so would-be astronauts can get some G-Force experience, including zero gravity. The port hull, where Branson presumably traveled, is pressurized and can carry a range of payloads.

The successful public flight clearly inspired confidence in the business world, with the Abu Dhabi investment group Aabar shortly after committing USD$280 million to Virgin Galactic for an equity stake. Virgin Galactic also announced a small satellite launch service will soon be available from VMS Eve, making it an extraordinarily cost-effective way to get hardware into space.

Virgin Galactic expects that VMS Eve will make its first “captive carry” flight with SpaceShipTwo attached by the end of this year.

4 Comments

"Interestingly, the starboard hull is not pressurized, so would-be astronauts can get some G-Force experience, including zero gravity."

Okay - either this is really bad writing, or somebody is completely clueless about the relationship between g-force, air pressure, and zero-gravity.

Bill Richman
30th July, 2009 @ 07:45 pm PDT

Wish they would stop prioritising space trippers (NOT tourists) and concentrate on real applications for this technology - delivering satellites into low earth orbit, and most importantly, small/cheap, automated cargo pods that can be dispatched in their hundreds to the Moon or Mars with materials & equipment for manned missions. Maybe they could also deliver into space a test vehicle for the Ion Engine featured here.

Nedguy
31st July, 2009 @ 04:20 am PDT

Was fortunate enough to attend Airventure the day WK2 arrived, and watched Sir Richard Branson speak from about 20 feet away.

The left fuselage does not even have windows at this point, if you look closely you will realize they are just stickers or paint or similar. They claimed this will eventually be fitted for additional passengers so you can see your friends or family off into space.

WK2 will supposedly also have the capacity to launch satellites much cheaper than the rockets used today.

sunfly
9th August, 2009 @ 10:04 pm PDT

not only the "zero gravity" thing ... starboard is the RIGHT side of a ship/plane. i think the left fuselage is for payloads and not for "would-be astronauts" because as sunfly said, there aren't windows, even more bad when it wouldn't be under pressure.

MG127
11th October, 2013 @ 06:20 am PDT
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