Tech: Richard Branson says Virgin Galactic is ‘weeks’ away from a launch as his space race with Jeff Bezos heats up

Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Airlines, in 2016.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson has said their first flight into space will happen in "weeks, not months." Galactic is racing Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin to a first commercial spaceflight, and Branson says they're "neck and neck."Branson also said he will put himself in space within months too.

  • Richard Branson previously said he was “months” away from launching Virgin Galactic’s first rocket into space — on Tuesday he said it will happen within “weeks.”
  • He told CNBC that his team are “more than tantalizingly close” to a launch.
  • Branson wants to put himself into space as soon as possible too, and says he will be onboard one of his rockets within “months.”
  • Virgin Galactic is “neck and neck” with Blue Origin, run by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, to provide the first commercial spaceflight, Branson said in May.

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson says his team are only “weeks, not months” away from putting their first rocket in space — and Galactic are “neck and neck” with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin program for the first commercial spaceflight.

Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday Branson said his project was “more than tantalizingly close” to launching and he will be putting people in space not too long after that.

“So we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead,”he said.

Branson said in May that Virgin Galactic and Bezos’ Blue Origin were tied in the race for the first commercial spaceflight.

Talking to the BBC at that time, Branson said: “I think we’re both neck and neck as to who will put people into space first. We’re talking about months away, not years away — so it’s close.”

At the time Branson added that he hoped to become an astronaut within a year with Virgin Galactic. But Branson improved that prediction on Tuesday to “months, not years” until he will personally be in space.

When asked about consumer demand for space travel, he told CNBC: “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 with that demand.”

Branson is often criticised for over-estimating his project’s launch dates, and has been delayed many times before, Business Insider reported.

One ticket on the Virgin Galactic project costs around $250,000.

Read more about how Elon Musk’s Space X, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic will take people to space in the future.

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