We now know what Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceliner looks like, inside and out.
The company, part of billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group, today (July 28) revealed the cabin interior of the six-passenger SpaceShipTwo, which is designed to carry people and payloads to suborbital space and back.
"We will continue with that ethos as we expand our fleet, build our operations and underpin Virgin Galactic's position as the spaceline for Earth," he said. "This cabin has been designed specifically to allow thousands of people like you and me to achieve the dream of spaceflight safely — and that is incredibly exciting."
The interior, which Virgin Galactic devised in collaboration with London-based design agency Seymourpowell, is sleek and stylish. The cabin's color palette "has been carefully curated so that it complements the architecture of the seat, the cabin itself and spacesuits," company representatives wrote in the same statement. "The golden metallics resemble luminous desert sands, blues conjure celestial spaces and teals inspired by the ocean ground travelers back to Earth."
The six seats can recline, a feature that SpaceShipTwo's two pilots will manage to minimize g-forces on passengers during the boost and re-entry phases of each suborbital flight. Every seat boasts a screen that will display flight data, and passengers will have personal communications systems that give them access to the pilots, Virgin Galactic representatives said.
SpaceShipTwo is hauled aloft by a big plane called WhiteKnightTwo, which drops the spacecraft at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). SpaceShipTwo's onboard rocket motor then kicks on, blasting the vehicle up to suborbital space.
Passengers will get to see the curvature of Earth against the blackness of space and experience a few minutes of weightlessness before they come back home for a runway landing. The cabin is designed to accentuate this dramatic and (for most people) once-in-a-lifetime experience, company personnel said.
"Soft cabin surfaces and elements become intuitive hand- and footholds, allowing astronauts to explore the cabin freely and fully," Virgin Galactic representatives wrote in the statement. The cabin's 12 large windows, they added, "have soft extended edges, which allow astronauts to perfectly position themselves for 360 degrees of awe-inspiring views, from the infinity of outer space to the beauty of our home planet."
Each passenger will get ample documentation of his or her experience, via 16 cameras arrayed within the cabin, along with others in the cockpit and yet more mounted to SpaceShipTwo's exterior.
You can see the cabin for yourself in a new augmented reality (AR) mobile app, which is available for free from both the App Store and Play Store.
"We are particularly proud to be able to share this latest milestone with millions around the world, particularly during these unusual times," Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in the same statement. "We hope the new app, with cutting-edge AR technology, will help bring the dream of space one step closer for space enthusiasts everywhere."
Virgin Galactic has not yet flown any paying customers to space, but the company is getting close. The newest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity, has made two piloted test flights to suborbital space and is currently wrapping up its test campaign at New Mexico's Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic's commercial hub.
About 600 people have booked a seat to fly on SpaceShipTwo, at a ticket price (most recently) of $250,000.
Virgin Galactic's vision does not end with VSS Unity. Two other SpaceShipTwo vehicles are under construction at the California facilities of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic's manufacturing subsidiary. And the hangar at Spaceport America is big enough to accommodate five SpaceShipTwos and two WhiteKnightTwos simultaneously, company representatives have said.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.