Yesterday, Virgin Galactic showed off its new SpaceShipTwo vehicle, called the VSS Unity, in a flashy and slightly absurd ceremony at the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. The company decked out one of the spaceport’s test hangars into something reminiscent of a night club for the event; dark blue lighting flashed and loud theatrical music swelled when SpaceShipTwo emerged from behind a large black curtain. The vehicle was then pulled forward into the center of the hangar by a white Land Rover carrying Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who waved his hands about wildly.
The spectacle was enhanced by the presence of a few celebrities at the hangar, including Harrison Ford and thrill seeker Jeb Corliss. Branson also played an audio clip from Stephen Hawking when the vehicle was on full display. The famous theoretical physicist, who has already booked a ride to space with Virgin Galactic, was the one to come up with the name Unity. “Space exploration has already been a great unifier,” Hawking said in the clip. "We seem to be able to cooperate between nations in space in a way we can only envy on Earth."
Check out the highlights from the event below, including a moment when Branson's granddaughter christens the spacecraft with a bottle of baby's milk.
- SpaceShipTwo is designed to take two pilots and six passengers into sub-orbital space.
- The vehicle is meant to travel up to 70 miles high and up to 2,600 mph.
- One of SpaceShipTwo's wings.
- SpaceShipTwo's cockpit area.
- Richard Branson's granddaughter Eva Deia celebrated her first birthday by christening the spaceship... with a bottle of milk.
- And it was an awkward success.
- Branson strikes a pose for pictures with the spaceplane.
- The Virgin Galactic team waves for a group photo.
- A closeup view of the vehicle's wing.
- A rendering of Stephen Hawking's eye is on two sides of the spaceplane. Hawking gave SpaceShipTwo its new name, the VSS Unity.
- A hybrid fuel rocket engine will propel the spaceshiptwo into the upper reaches of our atmosphere.
- Virgin Galactic is returning to a rubber-like fuel for its engine — one that has had some controversy.
- The nose of the cockpit.
- Virgin Galactic's logo is plastered across the vehicle's underbelly. It will be more visible when the spaceplane is in the sky.
- Test Pilot Colonel Scott Cain talks with a young boy at the event.
- Up to 700 customers have already paid $250,000 to book a ride on Virgin Galactic's spaceplane.
- The vehicle's wings are meant to shift position in space — a maneuver known as feathering. It's a move that helps slow down the spaceplane during its descent.
- Shiny, captain.