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Land Rover Gives Virgin Galactic a Lift on Road to Space

Virgin Galactic's customers will be riding Land Rover vehicles over rugged roads en route to their rendezvous with outer space, thanks to a newly announced partnership between the space travel company and the British automaker.

The deal was announced Monday night at a glittering event aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a converted aircraft carrier that's docked at Pier 86 in New York City.

To mark the occasion, a full-size replica of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane was unveiled alongside Land Rover's Discovery Vision Concept SUV.

Land Rover says it will base fleets of vehicles at Virgin Galactic's test facilities around the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, and at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Both places have challenging unpaved roads. For example, the most direct route from Las Cruces, N.M., to Spaceport America includes a tire-wearing trip over 25 miles of gravel.

"The partnership will see Land Rover vehicles become part of daily life for the Virgin Galactic team and for all 'Future Astronauts,'" Land Rover said in a news release. "The space experience will now begin with Land Rover as they arrive in New Mexico for training, and continue to the moment they drive from the space terminal building to the waiting spaceship."

More than 700 customers have signed up so far for SpaceShipTwo flights that will provide a few minutes of weightlessness and an astronaut's-eye view of Earth and space. The current price tag is $250,000 per seat. The real SpaceShipTwo is currently undergoing flight tests at Mojave, and passenger flights could begin as early as this year.

Private spaceship displayed on USS Intrepid 0:26

NBCUniversal has established a multi-platform partnership with Virgin Galactic to track the development of SpaceShipTwo and televise its inaugural commercial spaceflight.