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31 March 2017 00:31 (South Africa)

Branson readying for virgin commercial space flight

Virgin Galactic has unveiled SpaceShipTwo, and despite the mundane name, the craft is a sleek, bullet-shaped spacecraft about the size of a large business jet. Its mission - take six rich passengers for a joyride into space. Billed as the world's first commercial spaceship, it will ride piggy-back on another jet before firing its rocket engine to climb out of the Earth's atmosphere. Richard Branson’s latest dream machine has been under secret development for two years in the Mojave Desert in the US, and was built to provide sub-orbital space rides at $200,000 a pop. That’s pretty small beer for many of the world’s super-rich, so expect a queue of passengers for the two-and-a-half-hour flights that include about five minutes of weightlessness (I insist, you first). SpaceShipTwo's debut marks the first public appearance of a commercial passenger spacecraft, and Arnie Schwarzenegger was on hand to christen it ''VSS Enterprise'' (named after Star Trek, or Branson’s taste for commercial risk, we don’t know) by breaking champagne bottles on the craft's nose. Read more: New York Times

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