There are good news days, and bad news days. The disappointing news on Wednesday that the launch of Shuttle Discovery was flawed, leading to the grounding of the NASA Shuttle fleet, was a bad news day for everyone interested in human space flight.
Today's announcement that Burt Rutan and Sir Richard Branson have partnered to form "The Spaceship Company" makes today a decidedly good news day for space flight enthusiasts. Sir Richard Branson (Founder, Virgin Group of Companies) and Burt Rutan (President, Scaled Composites) announced their signing of an agreement to form a new aerospace production company to build a fleet of commercial sub-orbital spaceships and launch aircraft.
The new company will own the designs of the new SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and White Knight Two (WK2) launch systems that are now in development at Scaled Composites. The SS2/WK2 system will use the 'Care-free reentry' and the 'cantilevered-hybrid' rocket motor technology developed for the Ansari X prize-winning SpaceShipOne (SS1), and will license that technology from Paul Allen's Mojave Aerospace company.
The Spaceship Company will manufacture the new launch aircraft, spaceships and support equipment and market them to spaceline operators, including the launch customer, Virgin Galactic. The Spaceship Company will be jointly owned by Virgin and Scaled, and will contract Scaled for the research, development, testing and certification of SS2/WK2. Burt Rutan will head up the technical development team.
Burt Rutan commented: "I am very excited to have agreed the terms on which we can now move forward to develop the world's-first commercial, passenger-carrying Spaceships. This will truly herald an era of personal spaceflight first described by the visionary science fiction writers of the 1940's and 1950's. Richard and I share a vision that commercially-viable and safe space tourism will provide the foundation for the human colonization of space. I am looking forward, (actually looking way up!) to working together with Richard on this next exciting phase."