Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world's first commercial spaceline. The new spaceship (SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve) have both been developed for Virgin Galactic by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 claimed the US$10 million Ansari X Prize as the world's first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic's new vehicles share much of the same basic design, but are being built to carry six customers, or the equivalent scientific research payload, on sub-orbital space flights, allowing an out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience and offering astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space for tourist astronauts and a unique microgravity platform for researchers.
The VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve test flight programme is well under way, leading to Virgin Galactic commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Scaled Composites LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation, is an aerospace and speciality composites development company and the birthplace of many of the world's most exciting aircraft in recent decades, including SpaceShipOne that won the Ansari X Prize in 2004, SpaceShipTwo and Global Flyer.
Founded in 1982 by Burt Rutan, Scaled Composites continues to focus on innovative aerospace solutions through its broad experience in air vehicle design, tooling and manufacturing, speciality composite structure design, analysis and fabrication, and developmental flight tests of air and space vehicles.