Virgin Galactic plans to start flying paying customers this year

Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spaceliner is grounded at the moment, but the company is confident it’ll be fully up and running by the end of the year.

Virgin Galactic flies people and payloads to suborbital space using an air-launch strategy: A carrier plane called VMS Eve drops the six-passenger, two-pilot VSS Unity space plane at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). Unity then fires up its onboard rocket motor, making its own way to the final frontier before cruising back home to Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic’s launch site near Las Cruces, New Mexico.