The Scaled Composites Model 339 SpaceShipTwo (SS2) is an air-launched suborbital spaceplane type designed for space tourism. It is manufactured by The Spaceship Company, a California-based company owned by Virgin Galactic.
|SpaceShipTwo (central fuselage) carried under its twin fuselage mother ship, White Knight Two.|
|National origin||United States|
|Manufacturer||Scaled Composites (1st aircraft)|
The Spaceship Company
|First flight||10 October 2010 (first glide flight)|
29 April 2013 (first powered flight)
13 December 2018 (first spaceflight)
|Primary user||Virgin Galactic|
|Developed from||Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne|
|Developed into||The Spaceship Company SpaceShip III|
SpaceShipTwo is carried to its launch altitude by a Scaled Composites White Knight Two, before being released to fly on into the upper atmosphere powered by its rocket engine. It then glides back to Earth and performs a conventional runway landing. The spaceship was officially unveiled to the public on 7 December 2009 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. On 29 April 2013, after nearly three years of unpowered testing, the first one constructed successfully performed its first powered test flight.
Virgin Galactic plans to operate a fleet of five SpaceShipTwo spaceplanes in a private passenger-carrying service and has been taking bookings for some time, with a suborbital flight carrying an updated ticket price of US$250,000. The spaceplane could also be used to carry scientific payloads for NASA and other organizations.
On 31 October 2014, during a test flight, the first SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise broke up in flight and crashed in the Mojave desert. A preliminary investigation suggested that the craft's descent device deployed too early. One pilot, Michael Alsbury, was killed; the other was treated for a serious shoulder injury after parachuting from the stricken spacecraft.
The second SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, VSS Unity, was unveiled on 19 February 2016. The vehicle is undergoing flight testing. Its first flight to space (above 50 miles altitude), VSS Unity VP03, took place on 13 December 2018.