KEY POINTS

  • Virgin Galactic's spacecraft fits six passengers and two pilots, outfitted with custom seats
  • The cabin has mood lighting and handholds around the windows to help passengers when they reach space
  • Each seat has a digital screen that displays flight data

Nine months after Richard Branson’s space venture, Virgin Galactic, started trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the company unveiled its new spacecraft cabin and is conducting final test flights before taking accepting public passengers. 

The space tourism company settled into its new headquarters, a futuristic building known as Spaceport America that's located in New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic recently said it's close to flying the 600 or so people who have put down as much as $250,000 for joyrides to the edge of space and back.

Virgin Galactic's sleek cabin fits six passengers and two pilots, outfitted with custom seats, plenty of windows, and 16 cameras to record customers' reactions. 

“This cabin has been designed specifically to allow thousands of people like you and me to achieve the dream of spaceflight safely — and that is incredibly exciting,” Branson said in a statement.

The cabin has mood lighting and handholds around the windows to help passengers when they reach space. At the end of the cabin, there is a giant mirror that allows astronauts to view themselves. Each seat has a digital screen that displays flight data.

Since Branson founded the company in 2004, Virgin Galactic has carried on through a series of delays and setbacks, including a fatal accident in 2014 that killed a pilot. But now, after successfully flying people to space twice, it seems Virgin Galactic is nearing its first public flight.

The experience begins at Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert, where passengers will board the spaceship.

Unlike traditional rockets that launch vertically, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is air-launched. The spaceship is strapped to the belly of an airplane that escorts it to an altitude of about 45,000 feet. There, it releases the spaceship, which travels 50 miles further into the atmosphere. After reaching its max height the spaceship falls back down to Earth and glides to the runway like an airplane. 

Virgin Galactic plans to conduct its next test flight on Oct. 22.

The flight will be the first of two tests and will only have two test pilots on board. Virgin Galactic said that the second flight test will have four people inside the cabin. If both test flights succeed, Virgin Galactic expects to fly founder Sir Richard Branson in the first quarter of 2021.