Vehicles and Facilities
While other companies are designing rival concepts, the Virgin Galactic designs are modern and take advantage of the laws of physics. The spacecraft is actually comprised of two pieces. There is a mother ship called WhiteKnightTwo that takes off from the ground and achieves high altitude flight. SpaceShipTwo then detaches from the carrier and flies into suborbital status. This has the distinct advantages of a secure takeoff that can be scrubbed at any time, if there is a dangerous problem.
Once SpaceShipTwo leaves orbit, it has a feathered re-entry system that is safe and secure. Regardless of the direction of re-entry, the ship will essentially right itself and allow the pilot to safely glide it down to a landing.
Virgin Galactic, since 2005, has implemented an elaborate infrastructure. The Virgin Galactic spaceport in New Mexico, Spaceport America, was constructed as a complete facility that features construction, testing and training departments.
Two suborbital spacecraft have been constructed as of 2009, VSS Enterprise and VSS Voyager. These are matched with two carrier aircraft, VMS Eve and VMS Spirit of Steve Foster. Test flights are conducted on a weekly basis and the first tourist flights are expected to occur as soon as late 2010.
Above right: Spaceport America. (SVTCobra at Wikimedia Commons; Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.5; GNU Free Documentation License; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5f/Mojave_spaceport.jpg)