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More than 15 months after the loss of a spaceship during test mission, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic introduced its new SpaceShipTwo on February 19 in Los Angeles. CEO George Whitesides was also present during the spacecraft unveiling ceremony at the Mojave Air & Space Port.
Whitesides said that the second-version SpaceShipTwo is a big win for the team which worked very hard to develop the spacecraft that someday will take humans to space. Every member of the team has faced tough time during the last few months, but now, all of them are excited about the company’s future, Whitesides told reporters.
Branson's granddaughter, Eva-Deia, christened Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity on her birthday. During the event, the company announced that the new SpaceShipTwo is a new addition to the Virgin Galactic fleet, and not a substitute for VSS Enterprise, which broke apart during a test flight in October, 2014. According to Virgin Galactic representatives, the VSS Unity was more than 60% complete when the tragic Enterprise accident took place.
The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the VSS Enterprise blasted because Alsbury deployed the re-entry system of the spacecraft too early. One of the two pilots was killed in that tragic accident.
“Scaled Composites, the Mojave-based aerospace company that built VSS Enterprise for Virgin Galactic, set the stage for the crash through its failure to consider and protect against the possibility that a single human error could result in a catastrophic hazard to the SpaceShipTwo vehicle”, said Christopher Hart, Chairman of NTSB, in July last year.
The Spaceship Co., a subsidiary of Virgin Galactic based in Mojave, has manufactured the VSS Unity. According to the Virgin representatives, the new craft has safeguards capable of preventing chain events that caused damage of VSS Enterprise.