SpaceShipTwo passengers will experience of few minutes of weightlessness and see the curve of Earth set against the blackness of space before returning back through the atmosphere. NASA’s first two manned spaceflights in 1961, by Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom, were similar suborbital flights.
LauncherOne, which is designed for cargo only, will be able to put satellites weighing up to 500 pounds into orbit for less than $10 million.
Virgin Galactic president George Whitesides said four companies, including Planetary Resources, a newly unveiled venture to build and fly privately-funded space telescopes, have put down deposits for LauncherOne flights.
Initially, both SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne missions will be staged from Spaceport America, a new commercial spaceport in New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic’s initial fleet includes five spaceships and three White Knight carrier aircraft.
LauncherOne, a two-stage liquid-fueled rocket being developed by The Spaceship Company (TSC) of Mojave, Calif., is expected to debut in 2016. TSC is a partnership of Virgin Galactic and Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman.