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

Richard Branson said Monday his Virgin Galactic will begin space test flights in a matter of weeks. File

Richard Branson said Monday his Virgin Galactic will begin space test flights in a matter of weeks. File

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

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

Since then, Virgin Galactic has had several successful test flights, with its space planes safely reaching Mach 2, which is about twice the speed of sound.

It was the first since a fatal crash in 2014, which delayed the firm's plans.

Test pilots have been putting the SpaceShipTwo craft, VSS Unity, through its paces high above the Mojave desert in California.

The British billionaire said Musk's late-night tweets - which have landed him in hot water a number of times this year - are a key "flaw" he must overcome. The 42-second burn blasted it to 171,000 feet, almost five times the cruising altitude of a transatlantic passenger plane.

Virgin previously said that it had sold around 650 tickets for its fully commercial suborbital flights, which are now booked until at least 2021.

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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. Asked in the interview whether he was confident enough people would pay for tickets, he told CNBC: "If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it".

With launch after robotic launch, SpaceX keeps threatening to overtake Virgin Galactic. The rocket motor is covered by a cowl at the rear of the aircraft body.

"So I think the market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is very big". Like most space travel plans, that mission has seen multiple delays and is now set for June 2019.

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

"It would be embarrassing if someone went back over the last thirteen years and wrote down all my quotes about when I thought we would be in space".

However, Sir Richard has not been deterred by Elon Musk's firm, and instead are using SpaceX as a pace setter in the private race to space.

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