Virgin Galactic is a subsiderary of the Virgin Group Ltd., a conglomerate founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson. The company was founded in 2004 with the stated purpose of providing access to space for ordinary people. Just how many "ordinary people" can afford the $250,000 (originally $200,000) price tag for a suborbital trip to the fringes of space has not been stated.
Launch operations are to take place at Spaceport America located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico. The spaceport has been built at a cost of $212 million in New Mexico taxpayer money.
Commercial operations are anticipated to begin in
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016.
Development of SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic continues with the construction of a second spaceship which may be completed in 2015. There was an accident on 26 July 2007 which killed 3 people during testing of a SpaceShipTwo hybrid engine.
After a redesign of the SpaceShipTwo engines and a change from a rubber-based propellant to a plastic-based fuel mix, a test flight over California's Mojave Desert on 31 October 2014 resulted in a mid-air explosion and loss of the vehicle, VSS Enterprise. Scaled Composites test pilot Michael Alsbury, age 39, was killed in the mishap.
The new propellant mix may jeopardize SS2's ability to actually achieve the Karman line.
WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo were unveiled on 23 January 2008. The first test flight of VMS Eve (mothership) took place on 12 December 2008. The first rocket powered test flight of VSS Enterprise (spacecraft) took place on 29 April 2013.
The below photos are from the Virgin Galactic press kit, released 23 January 2008. Click to enlarge any of them.