Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mother Ship Unveiled for $200,000 Place in Space

MOJAVE, Calif., July 28 -- British entrepreneur and adventurer Richard Branson on Monday took the wraps off an aircraft that, for $200,000 a seat, may someday take tourists who can afford it on the first leg of regular, albeit very brief, commercial flights into space.

Amid extravagantly orchestrated publicity at a historic test airfield near Edwards Air Force Base, Branson unveiled the double-hulled "mother ship" built to carry a capsule filled with six wealthy tourists high into the stratosphere, from where the smaller ship would rocket into the blackness more than 60 miles above Earth.

The dual-fuselage, all-composite plane expands and refines the smaller version that famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan twice used four years ago to begin the journey of a piloted capsule to sub-orbital altitude, winning the X-Prize competition aimed at encouraging private spaceflight.

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