The Latest: Virgin Atlantic rolls out new tourism rocket

AP News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2016 5:16 PM
The Latest: Virgin Atlantic rolls out new tourism rocket

MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on Virgin Galactic's new space tourism rocket (all times local):

1:43 p.m.

Virgin Galactic has rolled out a new version of its SpaceShipTwo space tourism rocket, replacing the craft destroyed in a 2014 accident that killed a pilot.

Founder Richard Branson was aboard a Land Rover that pulled SpaceShip Two in front of an audience inside a hangar Friday at Southern California's Mojave Air & Space Port, where it was assembled.

SpaceShipTwo is designed to reach the fringes of space, allowing six passengers to experience minutes of weightlessness and see the Earth 62 miles below.

There's no word, though, on when testing and actual passenger service will begin.

The first SpaceShipTwo broke apart during a test flight on Oct. 31, 2014.

An investigation found that co-pilot Michael Alsbury prematurely unlocked a system designed to slow the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere. He died and another pilot was seriously injured.

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10:10 a.m.

Sir Richard Branson says he briefly wondered if it was worth continuing his space tourism program following the 2014 accident that destroyed a rocket and killed a pilot.

The Virgin Galactic founder tells The Associated Press that engineers, astronauts and members of the public helped convince him that space travel is too important to give up on.

Branson is at California's Mojave Air & Space Port for Friday's unveiling of SpaceShipTwo, the newest version of his company's tourism rocket.

The 65-year-old says he's hopeful that during his lifetime paying customers will be taking Virgin Galactic ships on high-speed suborbital flights to the fringes of space.

The first SpaceShipTwo broke apart on Oct. 31, 2014, during its fourth rocket-powered flight.