Tourism space race: Virgin Galactic plays catch up, announces launch within 'weeks'

Ричард Брэнсон Virgin Galactic начнет испытательные космические полеты через несколько недель

The man who used to be the world's most popular cross-disciplinary businessman and self-publicist until Elon Musk came along is preparing to fire himself into space to regain his self-love crown, as Richard Branson says his Virgin Galactic enterprise is mere weeks away from hitting space - and he's putting himself atop the list of passengers.

Almost 50 years after dropping out of high school at age 15 and founding his first business, Sir Richard Branson is now the billionaire chair of the Virgin Group, which brings in more than $21 billion annually in global revenue.

Virgin Galactic is the single private space company to have lost people during the development process for its spacecraft.

Branson even dished out some health advice for fellow billionaire Elon Musk, who runs SpaceX and has been in a firestorm of controversy over the last six months.

Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson may have taken some people by surprise with news that he plans to venture into space soon.

Talking to BBC Radio 4 earlier this year, the 68-year-old said he had been undergoing astronaut training in readiness for his first space flight. Then, in 2016, the VSS Unity, which replaced the VSS Enterprise, completed its first glide test with flying colors and completed a few more powered flight tests in April and May.

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Speaking to CNBC in Singapore on Tuesday, Branson was also bullish about the company's bid to kick off a new frontier of space tourism.

Tourists will spend several minutes floating in zero gravity, aboard a spaceship that approaches or passes through the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere and space, some 62 miles (100 kilometers) high.

"If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it", Sir Richard told CNBC.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has an estimated net worth of $5 billion.

"And it is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater with that demand". To date, no private company has delivered on its promise to send tourists into space. He shouldn't be getting very little sleep, ' Branson said.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' spaceflight company Blue Origin is expected to launch a mission into space by 2019.

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