Virgin Galactic Introducing New Version Of Space Tourism Rocket Plane For Its Return To Testing

It’s been two years since Virgin Galactic has been able to test its rocket plane designed to carry tourists to space, after a 2014 accident that destroyed the original aircraft and killed one of its pilots. Richard Branson’s company is ready to take to the skies again and return to testing with a new version of the rocket plane.

Virgin Galactic is introducing its SpaceShipTwo space tourism rocket today at California’s Mojave Air & Space Port, where it was put together. It’s designed to have a crew of two and carry up to six passengers on sub-orbital flight that reaches the edge of space, at an altitude of more than 62 miles, reports the Associated Press. Passengers will get a few minutes of giggling gleefully while weightless at that height.

The first SpaceShipTwo broke apart in October 2014 during its fourth-rocket powered flight, when the co-pilot prematurely activated a system used to slow down and stabilize the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere. The co-pilot was killed, but the pilot parachuted to safety.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that a company that was working on the rocket with Virgin Galactic and was responsible for its test program should have had systems to compensate for human error. Virgin Galactic has now assumed full responsibility to complete the test program.

“Our team’s job is to plan out not just the obvious tests but also the strange and inventive ones, to conduct those tests, and to use the data from those tests to re-examine everything about our vehicle to ensure we can take the next step forward,” Virgin Galactic said in a statement.

As for when you can start packing your bags for space, we still don’t know when the first rocket will actually take off with tourists inside. Virgin Galactic says its ”new vehicle will remain on the ground for a while after her unveiling, as we run her through full-vehicle tests of her electrical systems and all of her moving parts.”

Virgin Galactic to roll out new space tourism rocket plane [Associated Press]