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Rutan, Branson announce joint venture
Posted: Thu, Jul 28, 2005, 7:24 PM ET (2324 GMT)
SpaceShipOne in Virgin livery (Virgin Galactic) Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and Scaled Composites president Burt Rutan announced Wednesday that the two had formed a joint venture to manufacture commercial suborbital spacecraft. The Spaceship Company, as the joint venture is called, will be responsible for the manufacture of the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) spacecraft and its carrier aircraft, White Knight Two. SS2 will be based on the SpaceShipOne design that captured the $10 million Ansari X Prize last year by performing two manned flights to 100 kilometers altitude twice in less than two weeks. Shortly before those flights Branson announced that he had formed a company, Virgin Galactic, that would offer commercial suborbital space tourist flights, and would license the SS1 technology from Rutan and Paul Allen, the billionaire who funded the SS1 effort. The Spaceship Company will be jointly owned by Virgin and Scaled, with Rutan leading its technical development team under a contract between the joint venture and Scaled. Virgin Galactic has placed orders for five SS2 spacecraft and two carrier aircraft, and also has exclusive commercial rights to any such vehicles for the first 18 months of commercial operations, which Virgin has previous stated should begin in 2008.
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