Today Business Insider wrote about some interesting news coming straight from Richard Branson himself. The CEO of Virgin Galactic was a guest at the Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki, Finland last week. There he gave a timeline that is still very much in line with reports that we received earlier this year.
“We are hopefully about three months before we are in space, maybe six months before I’m in space.” – Richard Branson
Richard Branson’s space company is selling trips to space for $250,000 and competing with several other companies to be the first to have citizens become space tourists. Unlike those other companies, they are not using high altitude balloons or rockets. Instead an airplane will take a small spacecraft up to about 50,000 feet and release it. From there the spacecraft fires its rocket engine to get to space.
At the event Branson was also asked who would reach Mars first, he or Elon Musk. Branson made it clear this would be Musk as he as no interest in reaching other planets.
“I’m not as passionate about Mars as Elon is. My love for space is about how much it can do for people back here on earth, and that’s what Virgin Galactic is pushing towards.” – Richard Branson
Virgin Galactic has done several important tests earlier this year. Most recently, in August, they had their 6th test flight. The mothership Eve left from Mojave Air and Space Port with the smaller space ship VSS Unity attached underneath it. During this test flight the Virgin Galactic team did pretty much everything except fire up the rocket system.
If the prediction Branson is making is correct, we should see actual rocket flights very soon. Without those rocket flights, it is impossible to get to space. So for them to reach that goal with test pilots, we should expect to see those tests before the end of the year. This is followed by Branson himself flying 3 months later. More importantly, everything seems still on track to launch citizens to space before the end of 2018.
The mothership together with the smaller spacecraft Unity attached in the middle