The billionaire chief and founder of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, the first craft of the company would fly into space within week and not in months as was being predicted.
The firm is in a race with Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to be the first to carry space tourists and this feat would be a huge development of the British firm.
Virgin was “more than tantalisingly close” to launch its first flight into space, said Branson in an interview with a television channel. He added: “we should be in space within weeks, not months.”
The entrepreneur further said that it would be “in months not years” that he himself would be able to be abroad one such Virgin Galactic flight which would soon be followed by space tourists making the trip for as much as $250,000 (£192,000) for a seat.
Branson had founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 and had then promised that the first suborbital flights would take place by 2009. Suborbital flights are those that can reach space without orbiting the planet. But the plans of the company were delayed multiple times as well as the 2014 loss of its previous space plane along with the death of co-pilot Michael Alsbury.
The tests runs for the latest SpaceShipTwo craft called the VSS Unity are being conducted over the Mojave desert in California, US.
According to the latest information available, the jet-powered carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, took the space place to 46,500 feet before and released it after which Unity’s pilots lit its rocket during the latest test flight of the craft in July. The craft was sent as far as 171,000 feet by the 42-second burn notching up a top speed of Mach 2.47.
However the craft needs to be flown much higher in order to reach space. It is generally regarded that space begins at the end of the upper atmosphere at an altitude of 62 miles (100km) which is almost double the altitude that the craft managed to reach in the latest test flight.
“If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it,” Branson said during the interview.
“I think the market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is gigantic. And it is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater to that demand,” he added. Ultimately, $50,000 could the price of a ticket for the flight, he said.
(Adapted from Cityam.com)