Richard Branson says he’ll fly to space by July


WASHINGTON, Feb 8, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – British billionaire Richard Branson
plans to travel to space within the next four or five months aboard his own
Virgin Galactic spaceship, he told AFP Thursday.

“My wish is to go up on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, that’s
what we’re working on,” the head of the Virgin group said on the sidelines of
an event to honor Virgin Galactic at the Air and Space Museum in Washington.

The American Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon July 20, 1969.

Virgin Galactic is one of two companies, along with Blue Origin, on its way
to sending passengers into space — though just barely, and just for a few

The companies want to send hundreds or thousands of people on these short
“suborbital” flights, meaning they wouldn’t get high enough to orbit the

These missions would be shorter and more affordable than SpaceX’s planned
project to send a Japanese billionaire to the moon by 2023 at the earliest.

Virgin Galactic flew 50 miles (80 km) above the earth, which the US
considers the edge of space, for the first time in December (the
international consensus is 100 km).

Virgin Galactic’s spaceship, called SpaceShipTwo, is commanded by two

To take off, it’s dropped by a carrier plane like a bomb, then starts its
own engine to jet off straight into the sky, eventually climbing high enough
to see the curvature of the earth.

The craft hovers and descends naturally, gliding back towards its original
departure point, Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

It will be able to carry six passengers along with its two pilots.

Branson has previously announced dates for this first trip into space,
though they’ve always come and gone without the voyage happening.

But this time the businessman claims preparations are in their final

“By July we should have done enough testing,” he said.

But he doesn’t want to make any promises he can’t keep: “I need to wait for
our team to say they’re 100% happy. I don’t want to push them,” he said, but
thinks they’ll be ready for clients by the end of the year.

He told AFP Virgin Galactic costs him $35 million a month; previously, he
said he had invested more than a billion dollars in the venture since the

According to Branson, the SpaceShipTwo’s next test flight is planned for
February 20, depending on weather conditions.