Zothecula writes "Although Virgin Galactic is generally known as a space tourism company, it sees research experiments as a future mission segment and significant business opportunity. To this end, the company has signed a contract with NASA to provide up to three charter flights on its SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane. The deal follows the curtain closing on the Space Shuttle program earlier this year and is part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, which is charged with providing reduced-gravity environments for research experiments while encouraging the emerging commercial space industry." In related news, a 68,000-sq. ft. facility has opened in California that will assist in the assembly of SpaceShipTwo spaceplanes.