Richard Branson is our kind of guy. No dreams is too outlandish, no vision too obscure. If it ignites his passion and the technology and market is there, he goes for it.

So in 2004, when the Ansari X Prize space competition yielded a reusable manned spacecraft SpaceShipOne, which managed two sub-orbital flights at an altitude of 100km in two weeks, he did just that.

Designed by American aerospace engineer, Burt Rutan, Branson pounced on the technology and soon had Rutan and his aerospace company, Scaled Composites, designing SpaceShipTwo, using the same technology and design, but with space for more passengers.

SpaceShipTwo is launched at altitude from a mothership, White Knight One or White Knight Two, to which SpaceShipTwo is affixed before, through a conventional runway take-off, it is carried to a height of 15km. SpaceShipTwo is then released, its engines ignited and passengers slammed back into their seats as the ship rises at a speed of more than 4,000km/h. Exiting the atmosphere, the sky will shift from blue to black, before the engine is cut and the space craft glides into space.

Experiencing zero gravity, passengers will be able to exit their seats and float about for six to seven minutes as outside their vessels many windows the Earth and galaxy shimmer – probably the most extraordinary sights to be experienced by a human.

Burt Rutan’s impressive feathering system, with its sophisticated application of aerodynamic design and the laws of physics, will then enable SpaceShipTwo, to make a heat-free entry from vacuum of space into the Earth’s dense atmosphere. With wings pointed upwards, the ship will enter the atmosphere in a similar fashion to that of a shuttlecock – a profound invention that has overcome one of the most dangerous elements of space travel. At 15km, the ship will then return to standard airflight operations and descend for an airport landing.

A fleet of five SpaceShipTwo crafts are set to commence operation as of late 2013. Upwards of 500 tickets, at a price of US$ 200,000 a pop have been sold, with first passengers including Branson and his family, and celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Hanks and scientist Stephen Hawkins.

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