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Tue 29 Jul 2008 01:28 PM

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Virgin's Branson reveals 'space mothership'

Virgin Galactic unveils carrier aircraft, set to ferry spaceship and astronauts into space.

Virgin Galactic has unveiled the new WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft, set to carry the SpaceShipTwo and private astronauts on the first stage of their trip to space.

Virgin founder Richard Branson and SpaceShipOne designer, Burt Rutan revealed the mothership at a ceremony in Calfornia, US on Monday.

Branson said in a statement that the rollout of WhiteKnightTwo represented “tremendous progress" towards its goal of commercial space operation.

The mothership is the world’s largest all carbon composite aircraft, with a maximum altitude of over 50,000 feet.

The ship's wing span is 140 feet, and it will be able to support up to four daily space flights.

The WK2 has already begun with ground tests and is expected to take its first flight later this year. Tickets for a trip to space carry a hefty price tag of $200,000 per ticket.

Virgin Galactic’s space flights are expected to commence at the end of 2009, and the company has already sold more than 200 tickets globally, representing over $30 million in deposits.

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