CSA: SpaceShipTwo Shows Power of California Innovation

The WhiteKnightTwo rolls out with SpaceShipTwo. (Photo Credit: Sam Coniglio)
The WhiteKnightTwo rolls out with SpaceShipTwo. (Photo Credit: Sam Coniglio)


Dramatic skies, sensational lighting and stirring music formed the back drop this evening from which designer Burt Rutan and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson revealed SpaceShipTwo in a theatrical extravaganza befitting the suspense that has surrounded this completely commercial space-faring system.

Cradled under the wing of its mother airship, the WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo stood proudly on the tarmac and shone as a testament to California’s innovation and manufacturing prowess.

An estimated 800 people stood under the Mojave Air and Spaceport’s night sky in awe and palpable anticipation. Many of those present for the unveiling are future astronauts who have already signed up and paid their deposits for upcoming flights to the outer-reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. The excitement and energy in the crowd was electric.

California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson were both present at the ceremony, each extolling the significant impact space tourism will have on the economy of his state. California remains the space enterprise community’s research, development and manufacturing leader, while New Mexico will host the inland spaceport from which SpaceShipTwo will operate under the corporate banner of Virgin Galactic.

“We gathered tonight for another of California’s many industry firsts,” extolled Andrea
Seastrand, Executive Director of the California Space Authority (CSA). “The technology showcased tonight will change the course of travel and space access. It’s exciting to know that California is at the forefront of the commercial space age.”

The unveiling signals the beginning of an ambitious program that space tourism advocates expect will culminate with the first suborbital journeys by the end of the decade. Approximately 300 amateur astronauts have each reserved a $200,000 seat for a chance to float weightless for a mere five minutes some 62 miles above the Earth. The WhiteKnightTwo will ferry SpaceShipTwo up to 50,000 feet into the sky before it is released to rocket upwards. Both craft will return independently to Earth for reassembly and relaunch.

Enthusiasts look forward to the day when spaceports can be found worldwide. Methods of travel, weightless research, and increased services from space technologies will ultimately drive access costs down and, in turn, stimulate further expansion.