About Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic is the second commercial operator to offer private space flights. It expects to have sub-orbital flights aboard Spaceship Two operating by 2009.

The spaceships are designed to carry six passengers and two pilots to an altitude of about 140km and will initially operate from the Mojave Spaceport in the Californian desert.

Among the first passengers to fly on Virgin Galactic's spacecraft are Superman Returns film director Bryan Singer, an unidentified member of the British royal family and designer Philippe Starck.

The Spaceship Two spacecrafts are based on the design of SpaceShip One, built by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan.

SpaceShipOne became the first privately built vehicle to reach space in 2004. It made three flights to altitudes greater than 100km - the edge of the Earth's atmosphere - capturing the Ansari X-Prize.

Virgin Galactic plans to establish permanents headquarters in New Mexico and to operate its space flights from the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, “Spaceport America”. The spaceport is funded by the New Mexico state government and is now in the design and construction stage.

Virgin has also announced that NASA will make its Ames Research Centre in California available to Virgin Galactic.

Sir Richard Branson's company has also signed an agreement with Spaceport Sweden that will give future customers the opportunity to fly from a European base.