Richard Branson unveils interior mock-up of private spaceship

British entrepreneur Richard Branson unveiled an interior mock-up of the suborbital spaceship that his company plans to use to take paying passengers into space.

The full-size model of the interior of SpaceShipTwo was shown during a technology show in New York on Thursday. The spaceship, to be operated by Virgin Galactic, will hold six passengers and two pilots.

The mock-up featured a spacious cabin with reclining seats and large portholes. The interior is designed to give passengers room to float around. A flight, including about five minutes of weightlessness, will cost each passenger $200,000 (Ђ157,000).

It is the first public display of any kind of SpaceShipTwo. The vehicle is being built in private by aviation designer Burt Rutan in California's Mojave Desert, where its predecessor, SpaceShipOne, was flown in 2004.

Test flights are expected to begin late next year, with the first tourist flights in 2008, reports AP.

Initial tourist flights will take off from California, and later at a proposed $225 million (Ђ177 million) facility in New Mexico called Spaceport America.

Virgin Galactic is one of several startup companies that plan to rocket ordinary people into space. Virgin Galactic's goal is to ferry 500 people in its first year roughly the same number of people who have gone up in 45 years of space travel.

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