Sunday, 21 October, 2018

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

Richard Branson said Monday his Virgin Galactic will begin space test flights in a matter of weeks. File Richard Branson said Monday his Virgin Galactic will begin space test flights in a matter of weeks. File
Cary Marshall | 10 October, 2018, 10:07

Virgin Galactic is Branson's commercial spaceflight company that aims to begin taking paying customers to outer space.

British entrepreneur Richard Branson said he expects his Virgin Galactic company to conduct its first space flight "within weeks, not months" in comments broadcast Tuesday.

Tuesday, Branson said the test flights are near.

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.

"We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead". The 42-second burn blasted it to 171,000 feet, almost five times the cruising altitude of a transatlantic passenger plane.

Virgin Spaceship Unity and Virgin Mothership Eve take to the skies on its first captive carry flight in 2016.

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He has undergone astronaut, fitness and centrifuge training over recent months and now believes he will be ready for his maiden space voyage in a matter of months.

He said: "If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it".

One ticket on the Virgin Galactic project costs around $250,000. The rocket motor is covered by a cowl at the rear of the aircraft body.

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

Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk's SpaceX and Amazon to send the first fee-paying passengers into space. "And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years", after which point his piggybacking little spaceships will open their hatches to the paying public; beating rival nouveau billionaires Musk and Bezos to the PR win of being first to offer orbital holidays to the super rich. Like most space travel plans, that mission has seen multiple delays and is now set for June 2019.

Virgin Galactic is a few steps behind its main competitor SpaceX, which last month announced it will be sending its first private citizen around the moon in 2023 - Japanese online fashion businessman Yusaku Maezawa.

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