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Virgin Galactic unveils first spaceship for tourists named SpaceShipTwo

Sir Richard Branson's first commercial spacecraft has finally been unveiled after five years of top secret construction.

Potential space tourists had the chance to lay eyes on the long-awaited SpaceShipTwo created by Virgin Galactic, Branson's own space programme.

Paid-up passengers and VIPs watched a 'theatrical unveiling' in the Mojave Desert in California where Sir Richard announced the beginning of commercial space travel.

Richard Branson with SpaceShipTwo
Grand unveiling: SpaceShipTwo will finally be presented to the public after five years of secret construction 

Peter Cheney, a 63-year-old future passenger who was among the first enthusiasts to sign up for a Virgin Galactic experience said before the event: 'We've all been patiently waiting to see exactly what the vehicle is going to look like.

'It would be nice to see it in the flesh.'

Created by Burt Rutan, a famed aviation designer, the craft is based on his prototype SpaceShipOne which won a $10million prize in 2004 for being the frist privately-manned craft to reach space.

As many as 300 people have paid around $200,000 (£120,000) to book their spot on a flight which will take them into space to see the curvature of the earth and experience weightlessness for several minutes.

One passenger that was reportedly invited to take part in the first flights was plane-mad John Travolta but it is said he turned down the opportunity as the training programme would take too much time out of his schedule and cost him in lost earnings.

White Knight Two
Taking to the skies: Mothership White Knight Two has been doing test runs with SpaceShipOne while SpaceShipTwo was being built

But although the Hollywood star will not be flying with Virgin Galactic, a further 82,000 people have registered their interest on Branson's company's website.

Test flights on the SpaceShipTwo will begin in early 2010 with the aim of reaching its maximum altitude sometime in 2011.

The flight will work by using a mothership as well as the spacecraft itself.

White Knight Two, which was unveiled last year, will carry SpaceShipTwo up to 50,000 feet from where it will use its own rocket engines to blast it 65 miles above the Earth's surface.

From there it will fall back to Earth gliding to land like a normal plane.

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