Virgin Galactic close to first public launch
The race to become the first private agency to take paying customers into space looks to be close to a winner, with Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson announcing their first launch is just weeks away.
There has been much speculation suggesting further delays could pushback the launch schedule, following the loss of the program’s chief test pilot through a fatal crash in 2014. Speaking to CNBC, Mr Branson stated: "We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years."
The aim is to complete the first launch with the Branson family aboard before opening the program up to the first paying members of the public. If this schedule is accurate, they will beat the likes of Elon Musk's SpaceX, who plan to send paying customers around the moon in 2023, and founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos’s project Blue Origin, who also look increasingly close to a public launch.
Virgin Galactic’s original timeline has long since passed, with sub-orbital spaceflight trips originally expected to start in 2009. Despite long delays, demand would still seem to be high with Mr Branson stating: "If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it.”
"It is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater with that demand."
Space exploration is one of the fastest growing industries, with more businesses looking to launch satellites of their own. With more companies offering launch capabilities the cost of sending payloads into space is tumbling. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin have floated the idea of colonising other plants, and given the levels of interest and investment in this industry, I wouldn’t be surprised if this reality is just around the corner.