Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Richard Branson claims Virgin Galactic will be in space "within weeks"

Richard Branson claims Virgin Galactic will be in space

Mr Branson's Virgin Group is the parent company of Virgin Galactic, which was founded in 2004 to develop commercial spacecraft for space tourism and space exploration. "Then we will be in space with myself in months and not years".

He admitted that it has taken him "at least seven years longer than I thought it would" for Virgin Galactic to reach this point, but he says the countdown is on for the first spaceship, which will take off in a matter of weeks.

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

Branson's estimation puts the Virgin Galactic project not far behind its initial deadline.

Earlier this year Virgin Galactic completed its first supersonic test flight of its SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket ship since the fatal crash. The original expected launch date was April 2018.

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. His training includes extensive tennis and cycling. In 2014, an early version of a Virgin Galactic spacecraft pulled apart and crashed during a test flight over the Mojave Desert, killing a co-pilot, Michael Alsbury.

Virgin Galactic and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have been in a closely contested battle to get the first fare-paying passengers into space. Meanwhile Elon Musk of SpaceX has announced plans to send a passenger around the moon in 2023.

Needless to say, Musk is facing legal action for the former, and has received a $20 million fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission for the latter.

Virgin Galactic isn't the only private spaceflight services company out there.

According to the businessman, "The market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is enormous". Last year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicted the space sector would be worth US$2.7 trillion by 2045.

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

When the plane reaches space, the vessel will detach and propel itself higher into space before both return to Earth - albeit at different times.

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.

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