Virgin Galactic Blasts Off with New E-Commerce Site for Space Travel

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NEW YORK - Virgin Galactic added an e-commerce platform to its Web site to coincide with the unveiling of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle at Wired Magazine's NextFest at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center today.

The revamped site at www.virgingalactic.com is now taking reservations for space travel in 2009.

"We are the world's first commercial spaceline," said Alex Tai, senior vice president and head of operations at Virgin Galactic. "Flights launch in 2009 and we've already sold 200 tickets."

Virgin Galactic was born in 2004, when scientist Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne successfully made three flights to altitudes greater than 100 kilometers and won the X Prize. Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen funded the original design, SpaceShipOne.

Then Sir Richard Branson came along and used his Virgin brand and marketing power to create the commercial product offering through a partnership with Mr. Rutan's design firm, Scaled Composites.

For $200,000 a seat, space travelers can take a 2 ½ hour flight on SpaceShipTwo just outside of the Earth's atmosphere and spend a few minutes floating in space before the ship must return back to the Earth's atmosphere.

David Bowie's "Space Oddity" plays while the six astronaut passengers and two pilots float in the ship and look back at Earth. Boutique hotel veteran Philip Stark is designing SpaceShipTwo's interior.

SpaceShipTwo, along with a guide mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, will be launched from a spaceport in New Mexico. The state of New Mexico will help fund a $200 million spaceport in the southern part of the state.

In return, Virgin Galactic has agreed to locate its world headquarters and mission control in New Mexico.

Those in the market, or interested spectators, can opt-in to receive e-mail updates and news on the launch.

"Ninety-five percent of the people in this room want to travel into space and we are looking to provide that," Mr. Tai said.

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