Richard Branson says Virgin Galactic will take people to space before Christmas

Christopher Davidson
December 3, 2018

Pointing to Branson's long-touted plans to send humans to space - and specifically addressing the gap between 2007, when Branson originally said that Virgin Galactic would send people to space, and now - CNN's Rachel Crane asked how badly Branson wanted to "prove [his] critics wrong". Those test flights will pave the way for tourists to explore the stars (or, technically, beyond the defined boundary of space, which is 100 km above the planet).

Both ventures are in fact in direct competition with Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, which plans to offer paying customers suborbital flights.

It's worth noting that Branson has been overly optimistic about Virgin Galactic's timetable before.

The plan is for test pilots (professional astronauts) to complete the first few "dangerous" flights solo, without any passengers on board.

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Earlier this year, the company resumed powered test flights of the rebuilt SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity.

With all the recent excitement about colonizing the Moon and visiting Mars, Virgin Galactic's decade-plus experiment with sub-orbital space tourism has always seemed like the one space venture that never quite took flight.

"Safety's all that matters if you're putting people into space", he said. Branson said, after reaching that point, the speaceship will detach and accelerate to a top speed of approximately 2,300mph in about eight seconds. "So none of us will race to be the first". In July, Branson said he hoped to go to space before the end of 2018.

Branson is known to set deadlines that aren't met. (His children will likely follow as among the first passengers to travel with Virgin Galactic to space, he said.) But Branson told CNN he wasn't "allowed up until the [test pilots] have broken it in a few times, first". Eleven years later, the firm is still working on getting its 600 customers into space. In a new interview with CNN, the Virgin Group founder now says he's "reasonably confident" his spaceflight company can beat out competitors like Blue Origin and SpaceX with crewed trips to space before Christmas. Branson considered abandoning the project but said he was convinced to carry on by a massive outpouring of public support. "I think once we're in space, we'll obviously need to do a number of other test flights before I go up, and then before we start putting the. astronauts who signed up to go into space with us".

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