Se­cond time com­ing

Vir­gin Galac­tic un­veils new space­ship 16 months af­ter deadly crash.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TRAVEL -

VIR­GIN Galac­tic, the space tourism com­pany owned by Bri­tish bil­lion­aire Richard Branson, re­cently un­veiled a new com­mer­cial space­ship, more than a year af­ter its pre­de­ces­sor crashed and killed one of its pi­lots.

It marked the be­gin­ning of a test­ing phase for the SpaceShipTwo, and the com­pany un­der­scored that com­mer­cial space flights would not be avail­able un­til Vir­gin Galac­tic was sat­is­fied it could carry them out safely.

"As we cel­e­brate the end of one crit­i­cal phase of work, we also mark the start of a new phase, one fo­cused on fur­ther test­ing and, ul­ti­mately, the first com­mer­cial hu­man space­flight pro­gram in his­tory," Vir­gin Galac­tic said in a state­ment.

The new space­ship, which largely looks the same as its pre­de­ces­sor, made its de­but in a cer­e­mony at the Mo­jave Air and Space Port in Cal­i­for­nia. It was towed into a hanger by a white Range Rover SUV, with Branson stand­ing in the sun­roof and wav­ing.

It was dubbed the "Unity," a name cho­sen by renowned physi­cist and cos­mol­o­gist Stephen Hawk­ing, Vir­gin Galaxy said in a tweet.

The com­pany's goal is to take cus­tomers to the edge of space, more than 62 miles ( 100km) above Earth.

De­spite the hefty US$ 250,000 ( RM1.05mil) price tag, more than 600 would- be as­tro­nauts have al­ready signed up, in­clud­ing Hol­ly­wood ac­tors Leonardo DiCaprio and Ash­ton Kutcher.

How­ever, the com­pany's ef­forts faced a ma­jor set­back when the first ver­sion of the SpaceShipTwo dis­in­te­grated over Cal­i­for­nia's Mo­jave Desert on Oc­to­ber 31, 2014, with in­ves­ti­ga­tors blam­ing pre­ma­ture brake de­ploy­ment dur­ing the test flight.

The pi­lot was in­jured but suc­cess­fully de­ployed his para­chute, while the co- pi­lot was killed.

"It's not an easy busi­ness. If it was an easy busi­ness we wouldn't only have had 500 peo­ple hav­ing been to space since space travel started," Branson told Sky News.

"There's a tremen­dous, ex­cit­ing fu­ture but ob­vi­ously it's tough," he said.

Test­ing on the SpaceShipTwo, which Branson said was con­structed by a team of 650 en­gi­neers, will be­gin with the elec­tri­cal sys­tem and mov­ing parts, fol­lowed by flights at­tached to the WhiteKnightTwo moth­er­ship be­fore pro­gress­ing to glide test­ing.

"Be­cause our new ve­hi­cle is so sim­i­lar to its pre­de­ces­sor, we ben­e­fit from in­cred­i­bly use­ful data from 55 suc­cess­ful test flights as well as the bru­tal but im­por­tant lessons from one tragic flight test ac­ci­dent," Vir­gin Galac­tic said in its state­ment.

SpaceShipTwo is a com­mer­cial ver­sion of SpaceShipOne, the first pri­vate space­craft to reach the edge of space in 2004.

The new craft may one day carry six pas­sen­gers on three­hour sub­or­bital flights, of­fer­ing them the pos­si­bil­ity of mo­men­tary weight­less­ness and un­par­al­leled views of Earth.

"The most im­por­tant thing is that we get the test pro­gram done and com­pleted so we can send peo­ple safely into space. And start a pro­gram where this space­ship can go into space hun­dreds of times in the years to come," Branson told Sky News.

"So we're not go­ing to hurry it, It will go step by step and when our test pi­lots say we're ready, then I'll go up and that will be the start of bring­ing other peo­ple up as well." – AFP Re­laxnews FOR travel junkies, there are more sto­ries on­line that you won’t find in our news­pa­per. You can find them ex­clu­sively at Star2. com/ travel.

For next week, th­ese are some sto­ries to check out. If you are a woman trav­eller have you ever won­dered if the rest of the sis­ter­hood in Asia makes travel de­ci­sions like you do? Do you make the travel de­ci­sions for the fam­ily and per­haps even plan the trips? Find out about th­ese and more on Mon­day.

What are the des­ti­na­tions that seemed to be gen­er­at­ing a lot of in­ter­est with trav­ellers? We give you the top 10 of those des­ti­na­tions next week.

Which is the long­est non- stop flight in the world cur­rently and which was the pre­vi­ous record holder? See how the “land­scape” of avi­a­tion has changed and which air­lines are chang­ing the game.

the Vir­gin Space­ship unity is the first ve­hi­cle to be man­u­fac­tured by the Space­ship com­pany, Vir­gin Galac­tic’s wholly owned man­u­fac­tur­ing arm. — AFP

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