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Sat 9 Jan 2016 02:07 PM

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Abu Dhabi-backed Virgin Galactic to debut new spaceship next month

New SpaceShipTwo will have a fail-safe mechanism to prevent a similar accident to the fatal 2014 disaster

Abu Dhabi-backed Virgin Galactic to debut new spaceship next month

Abu Dhabi-backed Virgin Galactic will unveil the second version of SpaceShipTwo next month.

Despite a fatal accident in 2014, when a pilot died after SpaceShipTwo’s “feathering” system deployed prematurely, Virgin Galactic has pushed forward with plans to build rocket planes that will one day transport tourists into space.

Virgin Galactic plans to roll out and name the second version of SpaceShipTwo on February 19, which is expected to be similar to its predecessor, according to reports in US media, but with obvious modifications that will enhance safety measures. The new SpaceShipTwo will have a fail-safe mechanism to prevent pilots from prematurely engaging the “feathering system” which controls the plane’s descent – the cause of the 2014 disaster.

Virgin chief Richard Branson plans to invite renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, the only person to receive a free ticket for a flight on SpaceShipTwo, to the launch event at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Branson, speaking to The Independent newspaper, said Hawking has been invited to name the new plane at the unveiling.

“Obviously, we had a year’s delay after the accident and it’s tremendous that Stephen Hawking has agreed to come and name the new spaceship,” Branson said.

“He has made it very clear that he thinks mankind and womankind need to work very hard to try to colonise other planets and that space is very important for people back here on Earth,” he added.

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