Friday, 19 October, 2018

Virgin Galactic to be in space 'in weeks,' owner Branson says

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson speaks at a news conference on March 30 in Las Vegas Virgin Group founder Richard Branson speaks at a news conference on March 30 in Las Vegas
Sandy Nunez | 10 October, 2018, 10:08

British billionaire Richard Branson says his company Virgin Galactic will be in space in "weeks, not months".

Branson's company had its logo on the tail of a 2004 manned test flight that made it into space, but that was due to a licensing deal with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic did not itself develop that craft, known as SpaceShipOne. In April, Bob Smith, the head of Jeff Bezos's Blue Origins space company, told CNBC the firm still hoped to send tourists to the edge of space by the end of the year. And that'll be a legitimate offsettable business expense for professional Instagrammers, so there ought to be loads of them up flying about up there, pouting in front of small, black windows.

Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday Branson said his project was "more than tantalizingly close" to launching and he will be putting people in space not too long after that.

Branson's Virgin Galactic is racing against Amazon creator Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to launch the first out-of-this-world passenger flight and take paying passengers into space. The company plans to provide orbital human spaceflights as well. In the most recent test in July, the space plane was released from its jet-powered carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, at 46,500 feet before the Unity's pilots lit its rocket.

He also insisted there was huge demand for commercial space flights.

Branson has had astronaut, fitness and centrifuge training to prepare himself for his trip into space.

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"So I think the market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is very big".

When asked about consumer demand for space travel, he told CNBC: "I think the market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is big".

One ticket on the Virgin Galactic project costs around $250,000.

With launch after robotic launch, SpaceX keeps threatening to overtake Virgin Galactic.

Both companies will offer customers a weightless experience that will last just minutes, passing through the imaginary line marking where space begins - either the Karman line, at 100 kilometres (62 miles), or the 50-mile boundary recognised by the US Air Force.

At the time Branson added that he hoped to become an astronaut within a year with Virgin Galactic.