Branson says Virgin Galactic to launch space flight 'within weeks'

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On Tuesday, while in Singapore, Branson told CNBC that Virgin "should be in space within weeks, not months", conducting test flights.

"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 told CNBC.

The current asking price for a short trip to the lower edges of space costs around £200,000 to book through Virgin Galactic, although Branson says that once his fleet is fully running that could fall to around £40,000 within a decade or so.

Virgin Galactic isn't the only private spaceflight services company out there.

While Sir Richard says that he will have humans in space next year, Mr Musk has set a target of 2030 to get people to Mars, with the first people there being tasked with beginning to build a new civilisation.

A string of successful test flights this year with new vehicle designs have helped to put it back on track, with Branson clearly confident that Virgin Galactic can take some major steps forward in the coming months.

Virgin Galactic will get people into space using slightly different means than the likes of NASA and SpaceX. In the most recent test in July, the space plane was released from its jet-powered carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, at 46,500 feet before the Unity's pilots lit its rocket.

Branson's comments, it needs to be said, should be taken with a grain of salt. In 2014, an early version of a Virgin Galactic spacecraft pulled apart and crashed during a test flight over the Mojave Desert, killing a co-pilot, Michael Alsbury.

The total trip time would last between 90 minutes and two hours.

The company was founded in 2004, adding ambitions for commercial space travel alongside Virgin's existing aviation business.

Virgin Galactic is now in a tight race with Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin to launch the first space passenger flight which will bring paying passengers within the boundaries of Earth's atmosphere and space known as the Karman line.

Virgin's space programme is the culmination of a 14-year process.

The first space tourists, who visited the International Space Station (ISS) in the 2000s, paid tens of millions of dollars for the privilege.