Virgin Galactic unveiled its passenger-carrying SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane Dec. 7 during a gala celebration at the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert.

Virgin Galactic officials said they intend to devote 2010 to flight testing SpaceShipTwo and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft from Mojave and expect to begin flying passengers from New Mexico’s under-construction Spaceport America no earlier than 2011.

SpaceShipTwo is designed to carry six passengers and two pilots. Rides to the edge of space are going for $200,000 a seat.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson were on hand at the rollout to christen SpaceShipTwo as Virgin Space Ship Enterprise (VSS Enterprise).

Schwarzenegger pledged to keep California the “aerospace capital of the world” and noted that the SpaceShipTwo project has created hundreds of jobs in the state.