SpaceshipTwo Cool: Virgin Galactic's Offplanet Tourism On Track For 2015

A mere quarter million dollars and you too can join the ranks of the few brave adventurers who have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.  If the missions prove successful, rocket planes may become the hot new transport technology.

That's what Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space initiative claims.  As CNN reports, the company and their flagship transport vehicle, SpaceshipTwo, are poised to reach for the stars starting at the end of this year.  SpaceshipTwo, which is currently being assembled at a secure desert facility in California, comfortably seats six passengers (all with a personal window on the bulkhead and ceiling.)

The ship hitches a ride up to the edge of the atmosphere on a powerful plane called WhiteKnight Two.  Then, the craft separates from the plane, the rockets are fired up, and SpaceshipTwo reaches an altitude of 60 miles high, travelling at over three times the speed of sound (2,500 m.p.h.)

Passengers will then experience an estimated six minutes of micro-gravity heaven.  As Virgin Galactic states, "Life will never quite be the same again."

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