SpaceShipTwo (SS2) is a sub-orbital spaceship designed to carry 2 crew and 6 astronauts into space after being carried aloft by its mothership WhiteKnightTwo (WK2). The first SS2, christened VSS Enterprise by Virgin Galactic, was unveiled to the public for the first time in December 2009. VSS Enterprise took to the skies for the first time in March 2010 in ‘captive carry’ configuration attached to its mothership Eve. Enterprise performed its first glide flight in October 2010 followed by its first in-flight use of its unique feathering system in May 2011.
SS2 will be powered into space by a hybrid rocket motor after being dropped from its mothership at approximately 50,000 ft. In space SS2 uses a Reaction Control System (RCS) to control its attitude to maximize the viewing experience for astronauts. For re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, SS2 uses a unique ‘feathering’ system, that was demonstrated successfully on SpaceShipOne multiple times. The feathering system rotates SS2’s tail-boom assembly upwards about 65 degrees from its normal position– this ‘feathered’ configuration puts SS2 in a high drag, highly stable aerodynamic configuration for the spaceship’s descent through the upper region of the atmosphere. Following re-entry the tail returns to its original position and SS2 glides back unpowered to the spaceport.
Like WK2, SS2’s structure is all composite and is piloted by 2 crew. SS2’s cabin is identical in shape and size to WK2’s cabins and is equipped with many common elements to WK2.
The large volume and weight capacity, high apogee, and high flight rate of SS2 offer a unique capability for payload and technology development in the upper atmosphere, outer space and microgravity environments. Virgin Galactic has released a Payload User Guide for SS2 which can be found here.
• All composite construction
• Tri-cycle landing gear - 2x wheeled main gear and nose skid with abrading shoe
• Feathering wing design for re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere
• Crew: 2
• Capacity: 8
• Length: 60 feet
• Wingspan: 27 feet
• Height: 18 feet (Tail feather down)
• Cabin Diameter: 90”
• Integrated glass cockpit
• First Stage: WhiteKnightTwo (Horizontal air release from the WK2, not vertical ground launch)
• Second Stage: Hybrid rocket motor
• Un-powered (glider) runway landing
• Maximum altitude: Above 100 km (328,000 ft)
• Max speed: Mach 3.5
• For up-to-date flight test summaries for SS2 visit Scaled Composites