According to British billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is ‘tantalizingly close’ to its very first trip to space.
Branson founded Virgin Galactic back in 2004 and had previously said that he would initially go into space himself by April of this year–a deadline he missed.
Four years ago, the VSS Enterprise broke in mid-air and killed its pilot, Michael Alsbury and badly injured pilot Peter Siebold. Then, in 2016, the VSS Unity, which replaced the VSS Enterprise, completed its first glide test with flying colors and completed a few more powered flight tests in April and May.
Now, Branson told CNBC that getting regular people in space will happen much sooner than anyone else anticipated:
“We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years. We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead”
– Richard Branson
Virgin Galactic’s first paying customers will see a hefty ticket price, however. Right now the price of a Virgin Galactic ticket is almost $250,000–and it won’t be dropping anytime soon. Yet Branson says he hopes to get ticket prices down to below $50,000 in a decade’s time.
If that still sounds like a lot, it’s actually very little in the bigger picture of space flight. Bank of America Merrill Lynch says the sector will be worth $2.7 trillion over the next 30 years.