Virgin Galactic is weeks away from reaching space, CEO Richard Branson says

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

Eccentric entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson confirmed that his Virgin Galactic will soon be completing its first space rest flights.

A ticket into space on board a Virgin Galactic flight will be a costly £192,000 ($250,000) - but "ultimately" he would expect it to fall to £31,000 ($40,000) within a decade.

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

Branson said part of the reason why he himself had such an "enjoyable life and a long life" is due to him finding "wonderful people" to run his companies, only getting involved with the key issues.

Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, originally promised suborbital flights - those that reach space without orbiting the planet - by 2009.

It was the first since a fatal crash in 2014, which delayed the firm's plans. In the meantime, test flights are being launched in California's Mojave Desert.

Crash limo 'had failed safety test', claims NY governor
Since the reconstruction, three semi-trailers had reportedly run through the same stop sign that the limo went through, she said. The crash "sounded like an explosion", said Linda Riley, of nearby Schenectady, who was on a shopping trip with her sisters.

Branson hopes to have a space craft that can carry six passengers and two pilots above Earth. The 42-second burn blasted it to 171,000 feet, almost five times the cruising altitude of a transatlantic passenger plane.

At full tilt, VSS Unity - the latest instantiation of SpaceShipTwo - should reach speeds in excess of 4000km/hr, or mach 3.2.

"And it is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater with that demand".

Branson has had astronaut, fitness and centrifuge training to prepare himself for his trip into space.

Eventually, the company wants to fly space tourists to an altitude of 360,890 feet (110,000 metres) going beyond the 328,000 feet (100,000 metres) defined boundary of space.

Sir Richard's space firm Virgin Galactic is now locked in a battle with Musk's rocket company SpaceX to be the first to send paying tourists into space. The rocket motor is covered by a cowl at the rear of the aircraft body. Branson told the New Yorker earlier this year, but he says: "If you are an optimist and you talk ahead of yourself, then everybody around you has got to catch up and try to get there". "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. The former even signed up its first ever civilian passenger for a trip around the moon in 2023.

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