Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo: 15 facts you need to know

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo was meant to be remembered for taking paying passengers to space – but now it’s been destroyed after experiencing.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo: 15 facts you need to know

1. The space plane made its first powered flight on April 29, 2013. Strapped beneath a twin-fuselage jet, it took off from the space airport runway in the Mojave Desert, north of Los Angeles.

3. More than 500 aspiring space tourists have paid US$200,000 or placed deposits for a chance to float in weightlessness and view the Earth’s curvature from 62 miles up.

4. Sir Richard Branson and his family were meant to take the first ceremonial flight on the ill-fated SpaceShipTwo.

5. Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Kate Winslet were among many celebrities who signed up to fly in the spacecraft.

6. More than 65,000 wannabe space tourists applied for the first batch of 100 tickets. By December 2007, Virgin Galactic had 200 paid-up customers on its books for the early flights.

7. Passengers wishing for a glimpse of space would have to go through a “Pre-Flight Experience Programme” to ensure they are physically and mentally fit to fly.

8. The duration of the flight would have been about two-and-a-half hours, though only a few minutes of that would have been in space.

9. SpaceShipTwo was designed to carry a total of eight people on board – with six passengers and two pilots.

10. The experience would include a climb to 50,000ft before the rocket engine kicks in. Passengers would then travel to the Karman line (the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere). At this point SpaceShipTwo would separate from its mothership White Knight Two and then glide back to Earth to perform a conventional runway landing.

11. SpaceShipTwo had conducted 55 test flights before the fateful crash and had used its “feathered” wing configuration during 10 of these test flights.

12. Sir Richard Branson initially predicted commercial flights would begin in 2007, but a deadly explosion during a test pushed the deadline back. Three employees were killed and three injured.

13. In September 2011, SpaceShipTwo’s crew briefly lost control of the craft during a gliding test flight while testing its “feathered” configuration. But control was soon re-established and the test proved successful – and it landed safely after a seven-minute flight.

14. On January 11 this year, the spaceplane made its third rocket-powered supersonic flight, soaring to a record 71,000 feet. The vehicle was carried by aeroplane to 46,000 feet before being released.

15. SpaceShipTwo’s total development costs were estimated at around $500 million.