The groundbreaking flight by Branson — Virgin Galactic's founder — would pave the way for commercial voyages to begin. The programme has been hit by serious snags, however, with a devastating crash in 2014 caused by pilot error delaying the development of passenger aircraft SpaceShipTwo.
Getting tourists into space is not a simple exercise.
The spacecraft will be taken up by a special plane and released at high altitude. Seconds later, the spaceship — part plane, part rocket — will ignite its engine and blast upward with an acceleration of 3.5 g, meaning three and a half times that of Earth's gravitational force.
It will then cut off the engine, which will create a feeling of weightlessness for a few minutes as the spacecraft reaches its highest point, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) above the planet, and then begin its descent.
It will glide to land at Spaceport America, built in the New Mexico desert.
Branson has set a series of aviation and nautical adventure records, although he failed, despite numerous attempts, to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe non-stop in a balloon.
These exploits brought Branson close to tragedy in 1998 when he and his co-pilot had to ditch their balloon in the Pacific Ocean after low pressure forced the craft down.
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