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Video - Richard Branson unveils second space shuttle

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This is a new start for Virgin Galactic. After the inflight disintegration of their space shuttle, SpaceShipTwo, on 31 October, 2014, a new shuttle was officially rolled out on Friday, 19 February at a typically Branson-style show at Mojave, California (video). The craft was baptized by Branson’s one year old granddaughter, Eva Deia, with a bottle of milk instead of the traditional champagne. As announced by the British physicist, Stephen Hawking, in a recorded message, this shuttle is named VSS Unity (VSS: Virgin SpaceShip), which he confirmed he "would be very proud to fly on".

Following the recommendations issued by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after the 2014 crash, changes have been made to this second shuttle - especially to its rotating tail boom. Scaled Composites, the vessel’s manufacturing company, have had specialist teams hard at work installing procedures and systems to avoid the boom’s premature release.

With this second shuttle, Virgin Galactic’s seven test pilots will be able to resume flights ; although the first commercial space flight will probably not occur for several years. The space shuttle will able to take two pilots, and up to six passengers, into space at three and a half times the speed of sound. The list of candidates is already long with 700 people saying they are willing to pay the price of $ 250,000 per ticket.

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