Virgin Galactic mission back on track as Branson eyes 2018 take-off

Sir Richard Branson has revealed Virgin Galactic’s powered test flights are set to resume, with the company planning to commence commercial space travel by the end of next year.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Branson said the company is ready to resume the powered tests, two-and-a-half years after pilot Michael Alsbury died when the firm’s VSS Enterprise craft crashed.

Today’s comments represent the most significant update offered by the British entrepreneur since the tragic incident in October 2014.

Back in February, Branson revealed the company’s new Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, but he offered no timeline for the official launch.

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According to the today’s report, Virgin Galactic is currently completing an array of glide-only tests, before commencing powered tests once every three weeks.

Each test will see the vessels climb higher until the edge of space is reached before the year’s end. Once Branson has taken a trip of his own, planned for the middle of next year, the commercial operations will commence by the end of 2018.

“We will never be able to build enough spaceships, the demand is enormous,” Branson said.

The company is charging $250,000 for the trips, which must be paid in full and up-front. At last count over 700 people had signed up for the trip of a lifetime.

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