Richard Branson to Launch Himself to Space "In Months"

Virgin Galactic will be in space in “weeks not months,” says Branson

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has said that Virgin Galactic is "weeks" away from its first trip into space.

Virgin Galactic's disaster-struck space tourism programme is apparently nearing final launch readiness, with Branson telling U.S. news site CNBC that: "We should be in space within weeks, not months". 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.

He said Virgin would be taking people into space "not too long after" that.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo on its first test flight in October 2010 to prove the glide-and-land design.

Virgin Galactic has already completed several successful trial flights this year. The entire flight should take around 2.5 hours, though only a few minutes will actually be spent in suborbital space.

Acknowledging that the huge fee puts the ride out of reach of most people on the planet, Branson told CNBC he'd like to see the price fall to around $40,000 or $50,000 over the next decade.

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According to the businessman, "The market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is enormous. And it is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater to that demand".

Virgin Galactic reached a top altitude of 170,800 feet (52,000 metres) during a test of its VSS Unity spacecraft, which has room for six passenger and is lifted toward space on a huge carrier aricraft, on May 29. From early next year, passengers will be able to identify as having feelings of travel-related anxiety before they fly, leading to personalised communications in the lead up to their journey, and face to dace interactions while onboard the aircraft.

Virgin Galactic was founded by Branson in 2004.

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.

Branson's comments, it needs to be said, should be taken with a grain of salt.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has Blue Origin, and he is pumping in US$1 billion of his Amazon stock into the venture every year with the aim of launching a crewed mission next year.

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