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Virgin Galactic's space flights are now cleared for takeoff

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Virgin Galactic wants to start bringing tourists into space next year, and it now has clearance for takeoff. Virgin Galactic says that it's now received FAA approval for commercial flights of its spacecraft, the SpaceShipTwo, allowing it to begin service from its New Mexico launch site. Its agreement with the FAA sets up how it'll work with local air-traffic controllers and space authorities to clear the airspace for launches and landings of the ship. It currently hopes to have commercial service begin this year.

Virgin Galactic also has FAA agreements in California, where it's been testing the SpaceShipTwo. Between the California and New Mexico agreements, Virgin says that it'll have everything it needs to complete testing of the ship and to move into commercial flights. Though company founder Richard Branson has said as recently as last year that it's still shooting for a 2014 commercial launch, there's no date yet on when that'll be. Its first flights, however, have been booked for years.