Space tourism: Virgin Galactic “weeks” away from first test flights in space (video)

Space tourism: Virgin Galactic “weeks” away from first test flights in space (video)

Virgin Galactic has its sights set on launching the first-ever commercial space tourism service, with chairman Richard Branson insisting his effort could be up and running in a matter of months.

Branson said in a CNBC interview on Tuesday, October 9 that “within weeks” a test flight will take Virgin Galactic crew members into space for the first time, with himself and others joining the debut commercial mission “in months and not years.” He added that his team has a “very, very exciting couple of months ahead.”

Virgin Galactic has so far this year completed three successful rocket-powered test flights of its latest SpaceShipTwo plane, VSS Unity, but the vehicle has yet to be tested at the target altitude of 62 miles. According to Branson, that should all change later this month.

When the space tourism service goes into operation, VSS Unity will take two crew members and six paying passengers on thrilling trips to a point widely regarded as the edge of space and where those on board will be able to experience several minutes of weightlessness.

Some 700 people have already paid $250,000 each for a seat on the spacecraft, and Virgin Galactic has said that the clamor for places means that anybody purchasing a ticket today will probably have to wait until at least 2021 before they can get to experience the ride of a lifetime.

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