Branson says Virgin Galactic to launch space flight 'within weeks'

10 Octobre, 2018, 10:05 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Richard Branson said Monday his Virgin Galactic will begin space test flights in a matter of weeks. File

The new space race is well and truly underway, with Virgin Galactic founder and CEO Richard Branson saying the company will be in space "within weeks".

In an interview with CNBC, Branson said his company was "more than tantalisingly close" to its first landmark flight beyond Earth's atmosphere, stating: "we should be in space within weeks, not months".

The current asking price for a short trip to the lower edges of space costs around £200,000 to book through Virgin Galactic, although Branson says that once his fleet is fully running that could fall to around £40,000 within a decade or so.

The 67-year-old chief executive of Virgin, along with Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Tesla's Elon Musk, is determined to bring tourists to space, sooner rather than later.

To reach space, the pilots must take the Unity higher still.

He also insisted there was huge demand for commercial space flights.

Branson has been working out and going through astronaut training and centrifuge training in recent months to prepare for making the journey himself.

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When asked about consumer demand for space travel, he told CNBC: "I think the market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is very big".

Currently, some 700 people are on Virgin Galactic's waiting list (to the tune of US$250,000 (NZ$385,157) a ticket) for the company's first commercial flights, whenever they might be. The rocket motor is covered by a cowl at the rear of the aircraft body.

Both companies will offer customers a weightless experience that will last just minutes, passing through the imaginary line marking where space begins - either the Karman line, at 100 kilometres (62 miles), or the 50-mile boundary recognised by the US Air Force.

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

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

Branson's other space company, Virgin Orbit, has a contract with the Pentagon to launch "technology demonstration satellites", which it is aiming to do by 2019. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years.

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