Wow. Virgin Galactic revealed the design of its sub-orbital commercial aircraft yesterday and it’s pretty sweet. Together with Scaled Composites’ Burt Rutan, construction is now sixty percent complete with a tentative launch date some time in 2010.
The current design, taken partially from the Space Ship 1 that won the Ansari X Prize in 2004, is based on a carrier aircraft that takes the sub-orbital vehicle to an approach altitude, where it’s released for the remainder of the journey. If you’re curious how that fits in the pictured design, the two hulls on the outside of that aircraft are the launch vehicle — once the appropriate altitude is reached the center section of the aircraft drops out and the two vehicles diverge.
While I’m not as excited about the innovation as Sir Richard Branson (who compares it to the cell phone revolution) is, I’m still genuinely interested in the market and buzz that its creating. At $200,000 a seat I don’t think that any of us are going to be flying any time soon, but 85,000 people have already registered interest in the pricey trip to space. Perhaps said market is stronger than I predicted.
You can read more at the BBC here.