Virgin Galactic should be in space “within weeks, not months,” CEO Richard Branson told CNBC this week. He added that he expects to fly to space himself “in months and not years,” and customers will be in space “not too long after that.” Virgin Galactic pilots have been flight-testing VSS Unity, with the aim to carry passengers up to 100 km, or about 62 miles, above the Earth. So far, the craft has flown to about half that altitude.
Branson also told CNBC there is plenty of consumer demand to justify Virgin’s commercial space-launch efforts. “If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it,” he said. “So 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.” He added that he hopes Virgin can reduce the cost of spaceflight over time from $250,000 down to about $50,000 per seat.