Branson: Virgin Galactic To Put People In Space in 'Weeks, Not Months'

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson speaks at a news conference on March 30 in Las Vegas

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson says his team are only "weeks, not months" away from putting their first rocket in space - and Galactic are "neck and neck" with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin program for the first commercial spaceflight.

But now, Branson says, "We should be in space within weeks, not months. 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.

He said Virgin would be taking people into 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.

Speaking to CNBC in Singapore on Tuesday, Branson was also bullish about the company's bid to kick off a new frontier of space tourism.

Branson has been investing in space travel since 2004 and was initially expected to go to space himself before April of this year.

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Despite several setbacks along the way, including the fatal crash of one of its proposed jets in California's Mojave Desert which killed the pilot three years ago, 700 tickets have already been sold for a trip into space on a Virgin Galactic craft. The upper atmosphere is generally regarded to give way to space at an altitude of 62 miles (100km), almost twice the altitude achieved in the July test flight.

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.

"If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it", Sir Richard told CNBC.

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

"Ultimately", Branson said he hoped the price of a space flight would come down to around $40,000 or $50,000 over the next decade". "And it is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater to that demand", he added.

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



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