Virgin Galactic has showcased its twin-fuselage WhiteKnightTwo aircraft at the EAA AirVenture convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The independently designed Knight - which circled the runway before touching down - is expected to eventually transport Virgin's SpaceShipTwo to 50,000 feet. The latter craft will then detach and blast into space under its own power.
SpaceShipTwo will offer passengers the chance to briefly experience weightlessness before returning to Earth. Initial commercial flights are scheduled to depart from the Spaceport America in New Mexico, while the first non-US flights are likely to launch from Spaceport Sweden near Kiruna.
The ship features a cabin approximately the size of a Falcon 900 exec jet, large windows, 6 reclining passenger seats and feathering wings for re-entry.
Virgin Galactic has already confirmed 300 reservations for the $200k trip and over 85,000 people from 125 countries have "registered their interest" in becoming a Virgin Galactic astronaut.
Meanwhile, the WhiteKnightTwo has flown a total of 16 flights and logged over 50 hours flight time. The ship is expected to be the largest 100% carbon composite plane in service, as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner uses composite materials for only 50% of its primary structure.