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Up, up and away
Virgin Galactic, partly owned by Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments, has just unveiled the world’s first commercial spaceship.
December 8, 2009 2:28 by Aarti Nagraj
Virgin Galactic unveiled the VSS Enterprise, the world’s first commercial spaceship in a glittering ceremony on Monday. “Isn’t that the sexiest spaceship ever?” said the company’s head, billionaire Richard Branson.
The SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, which has been created by aerospace engineer Burt Rutan, can carry six passengers and two pilots. The spacecraft will take passengers about 62 miles away from earth, from where they will be able to view the planet and experience weightlessness.
Virgin Galactic, part of the Virgin Group, says about 300 adventurers have already paid $200,000 each to be among the first passengers on board the spacecraft. The company has also appointed ‘space agents’ across the world to manage future bookings.
Virgin Galactic is scheduled to start test flights next year and begin commercial operations between 2011 and 2012, although it stopped short of specifying a launch date. The company has also started building a spaceport in New Mexico, from where the space flights will depart.
The increasing popularity of the program will be great news for Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments, which bought a 32 percent stake in Virgin Galactic for $280 million in July this year. The investment would provide adequate capital to finance the company until commencement of commercial operations, Branson said. The Virgin Group has spent more than $100 million on the space flight program since forming Virgin Galactic in 2004, and each flight is expected to cost almost $2 million.
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