Virgin Galactic has released video and images of its completed SpaceShipTwo prototype vehicle attached to its WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft hours before the unveiling of the two together for the first time at Mojave air and spaceport in California.
At the unveiling, taking place on 7 December 2009 as darkness falls at the spaceport, governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Richardson of California and New Mexico respectively will christen the spaceship with the name Virgin Space Ship Enterprise.
Commenting on the unveiling, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic says: "This is truly a momentous day. The unveil of SS2 takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this ambitious project is not only moving rapidly, but also making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation".
Above: The prototype SpaceShipTwo sits attached to its carrier aircraft Whiteknight Two's wing
Last year the Whiteknight Two prototype was rolled out in Mojave and named Eve. Enterprise will carry six passengers and have two pilots. It and its mothership have been designed and built by Scaled Composites, which is based at Mojave air and spaceport.
From early next year SpaceShipTwo will undergo captive carry flights attached to its mothership and then under take its own flight test programme, being air launched from its mothership. Once Virgin Galactic enters commercial operation, which is expected to occur in 2012, New Mexico's Spaceport America is to be the world headquarters for the spaceline. The spaceport is located near New Mexico's city of Las Cruces and will be under construction next year.
Both mothership and Enterprise have composite fuselages and Whiteknight Two is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines while the spaceship will be powered by a hybrid rocket motor, which is still under development. The mothership has undergone over 20 flight tests since its 21 December 2008 maiden flight.
SpaceShipTwo will be unveiled to the sound of a space-themed anthem from UK disc-jockeys Above & Beyond entitled "Buzz". The track will sample Buzz Aldrin's original Moon landing dialogue. Afterwards there is to be a party with music from Above & Beyond and a cocktail bar.