Scaled Composites Model 339 SpaceShipTwo
|Virtual Aircraft Museum / USA / Scaled Composites
The Model 339 SpaceShipTwo is an air-launched suborbital spaceplane designed for space tourism. It 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.
On 29 April 2013, after nearly three years of unpowered testing, the first SpaceShipTwo 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 was killed; the other was seriously injured after parachuting from the stricken spacecraft.
The second SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, VSS Unity, made its first flight to space on 13 December 2018.