Virgin Galactic is a spaceflight company within the Virgin Group. It is developing commercial spacecraft and aims to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists and suborbital launches for space science missions. Virgin Galactic plans to provide orbital human spaceflights as well. SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spacecraft, is air launched from beneath a carrier airplane known as White Knight Two.
Virgin Galactic’s founder, Richard Branson, had initially suggested that he hoped to see a maiden flight by the end of 2009, but this date has been delayed on a number of occasions, most seriously by the October 2014 in-flight loss of SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise. Branson stated that Virgin Galactic was “in the best position in the world” to provide rocket-powered, point-to-point 3000 mph air travel on Earth. While Branson suggested, in October 2017, that he could travel to space aboard a SpaceShipTwo within six months, it was not until 13 December 2018 that VSS Unity achieved the project’s first suborbital space flight, reaching an altitude of 82.7 kilometres (51.4 mi), officially entering outer space by US standards. The project carried a third person as a passenger in February 2019, when a member of the team sat and floated within the cabin during a flight that reached 89.9 kilometres (55.9 mi).