Virgin Galactic is weeks away from reaching space, CEO Richard Branson says

James Marshall
October 10, 2018

"We are more than tantalizingly close now, so we should be in space within weeks, not months", he told CNBC. 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.

Branson has been public about his desire to go to space since 1988 and helped finance legendary air and spacecraft designer Burt Rutan's successful bid to win the first X Prize for private space travel.

To prepare for his maiden voyage, Branson said, he's been training rigorously: cycling, playing tennis and spending time in a centrifuge to acquaint his body with the gravitational forces of space. Branson has a long personal history of balloon and surface record-breaking activities.

Tuesday, Branson said the test flights are near.

"It is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater with that demand".

Sir Richard conceded earlier this year that the number of spurious claims he has made about Virgin Galactic flight dates was "embarrassing".

He founded the commercial spaceflight company in 2004. The company plans to provide orbital human spaceflights as well.

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. In October 2017, he suggested that people would be able to travel to space aboard a SpaceShipTwo aircraft within six months.

When the plane reaches space, the vessel will detach and propel itself higher into space before both return to Earth - albeit at different times. Blue Origin said in June that it will start selling passenger tickets for trips into space as early as next year.

The reusable New Shepard rocket and spacecraft is meant to carry up to six space tourists, researchers and/or experiments on brief suborbital flights, the company has said.

Sir Richard also revealed this week that his space venture is "weeks away" from sending one of its rockets into space for the first time. Neither company, however, has provided any details of ticket prices.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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