The Virgin Galactic spacecraft first flew in 2004 when it’s designer Burt Rutan won the X-Prize for the first private person to send a manned craft into space, return it safely, and repeat the mission using the same spacecraft within two weeks.
The Virgin Galactic Space Station is in New Mexico, with much of the testing done in Mojavi. The spacecraft, with its six passengers and two crew, is carried aloft by a mother ship, and released at around 50,000 feet. It then ignites its rocket engine and travels vertically at a speed of 22,000 feet per second – faster than a bullet. It only takes around 70 seconds to reach true space, when the rocket engine is switched off and the passengers (now officially astronauts) release their seat belts and float out into the cabin. In one direction through the over-sized windows they will see the deep blackness of space, with its stars more brilliant than passengers have ever seen before, and in the other the blue rimmed curvature of the earth. After a few minutes micro gravity starts to take effect, so the passengers return to their seats for re-entry, which people who’ve done it describe as possibly the most amazing part of the journey as the sky goes through myriad shades of black, indigo, purple and blue. At around 70,000 feet the wings are engaged to flight mode and the aircraft glides in to land.