SpaceShipTwo Unveiling Dec. 7

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Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic are set to unveil SpaceShipTwo, the six-passenger vehicle on which about 300 people have already booked flights to the edge of space. The rollout will be held at the Mojave Spaceport in California's high desert today. Flight tests of the rocket-powered aircraft/spacecraft will begin soon after the rollout. Many of the future space travelers who have committed $200,000 each for the relatively brief journey will be at the Mojave ceremony.

The spacecraft is modeled on SpaceShipOne, which won Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan the $10 million XPrize in 2004 and attracted the attention of aviation buff and billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. With Branson's investment, Scaled has built an airliner-sized initial stage aircraft, called by Rutan WhiteKnightTwo and by Branson Mothership Eve, that will hoist the spacecraft to 50,000 feet. From there, a rubber-burning rocket will push SpaceShipTwo to 100 km., the theoretical edge of space, where passengers can unbuckle and float weightlessly about the capsule for about six minutes. Descent is a controlled fall until aerodynamics can take over and the spacecraft, flown by two pilots, glides to a landing.