Sir Richard Branson added: "I couldn't be more delighted to announce the formation of this joint venture at the biggest private aviation event in the world. Like many millions of people growing up in the Sixties who witnessed the wonder of man walking on the moon - I dreamt that one day I too would make that 'one small step...'! Unfortunately though, over the last three decades, many people gave up hope - luckily people like Burt Rutan never did. His vision has allowed people, like me, to dream again. But even I never dreamed as boy, that one day, I would form, with Burt, the company which will build the world's first commercial passenger spacecraft!"
In 2001, Paul Allen contracted Scaled Composites for the research and development of the SS1 system, to fulfill his vision of flying the world's first privately-developed, reusable space vehicle. Last year on June 21st, when Mike Melvill flew SS1 above 100 km altitude, Mr Allen forever dispelled the myth that manned space flight was the sole remit of huge Government programs. Then, on September 27th, Virgin announced the launch of Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial space tourism operator and a new era in space travel was born. Virgin Galactic was a sponsor for the two successful X-prize flights completed on October 4th. SpaceShipOne, the historic, record breaking spacecraft, will be installed this fall in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Milestones of Flight Gallery in Washington D C.
The launch customer for this new joint venture between Virgin Group and Scaled Composites will be Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson's commercial space tourism venture. Virgin Galactic has placed orders for five SS2's and two WK2's, with options on further systems, thus securing the exclusive use of the systems for the initial 18 months of commercial passenger operations.
The Spaceship Company plans to make spaceflight affordable for the masses and to demonstrate the commercial viability of manned space exploration. We are dedicated to reaching that goal with the first generation of spaceship systems developed for routine, scheduled flight operations. Those systems will be environmentally friendly and will include new solutions to optimize both safety and the passenger experience. We expect that as the flight hardware matures, and is operated by competing spaceline companies, many thousands of people will experience the wonder of leaving the earth's atmosphere each year.