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Images: SpaceShipTwo--your ticket to space

Virgin Galactic prepares to take passengers to the edge of space. This is one flight you don't want to buckle your seat belt.
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WhiteKnightTwo

Virgin Galactic is moving full speed ahead to become the first company to provide commercial sub-orbital space flights for private citizens. The company hopes to launch its first public flight before 2009 but it is taking orders now at $200,000 per seat.

SpaceShipTwo will be launched from its mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo. The SpaceShip Company, which is a joint operation of Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, selected Scaled Composites to design and build SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo.

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In space

After the mothership releases SpaceShipTwo at 50,000 feet, the craft will rocket to an altitude of 360,000 feet in about 90 seconds. There, its wings will "feather" or fold in preparation for re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. The entire flight will take about two and a half hours.

This image of SpaceShipTwo was fitted over an actual photo from SpaceShipOne taken from space.

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weightless

For this portion of the flight, the fasten your seat belt sign will definitely be off. Passengers can expect to experience about 15 minutes of weightlessness while in space.

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landing

After reaching the edge of space, SpaceShipTwo will bring its passengers back to Earth. Virgin Galactic says it will schedule approximately one flight per week during the beginning period.

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Smithsonian

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipOne was the first privately built craft to reach outer space, and hangs in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. It's in elite company--right between Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the first plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean and Chuck Yeagar's Bell X1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier.

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Richard Branson

On September 25, 2004, Sir Richard Branson announced a deal to create Virgin Galactic, a company to license the technology of SpaceShipOne to take passengers into sub-orbital flights. Among the backers are Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and space engineer Burt Rutan

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Nieman Marcus

Can't find the right holiday gift? In its Christmas catalogue, Nieman Marcus is selling a SpaceShipTwo space flight package for six--for $1,764,000.

There is one way to book a free flight--with frequent flyer miles. Allen Watts plans to cash in 2 million miles accumulated through Virgin Atlantic's Frequent Flyer Club for a chance to ride in space.

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SpaceShipOne-SpaceShipTwo

Here's a size comparison of SpaceShipOne, which has made four successful suborbital flights, and SpaceShipTwo which is currently in development. SpaceShipTwo will hold six passengers and two pilots.

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