Branson's Aircraft: Beyond Space Tourism

Applications include satelites, drones and studying climate change
By Paul Stinson,  Newser User
Posted Aug 3, 2008 11:19 AM CDT
Billionaire Richard Branson, left, and the aerospace designer Burt Rutan unveil a model of SpaceShipTwo, which will be lifted to an altitude of 15km and released by White Knight Two, shown at top.    (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
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(Newser) – Though space tourism is an exciting feat in itself, it’s just the beginning of the possibilities for Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two, the Economist notes. The carbon-composite plane doubles as a spaceship’s first stage, and is capable of launching satellites, transporting replacement engines, and facilitating the study of the inaccessible “ignorosphere” —believed central to climate change.

And even if you can’t afford the $200,000 it costs for a tourist seat, you might be able to experience some of the conditions of space. The craft is acrobatic enough to offer zero gravity flights. Such a ride is available on a Boeing 727 now, for $5,000. White Knight Two could knock that price down to about a fifth that.