Virgin Galactic is expecting to send its first rocket to space “within weeks,” CEO Richard Branson said on Tuesday.
"We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years," Branson told CNBC. "We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead.”
Branson’s estimation puts the Virgin Galactic project not far behind its initial deadline. Last year, Branson announced that he wanted his company in space, operating commercial flights, by the end of 2018. The original expected launch date was April 2018.
Over the past few months, Branson has been busy undergoing a regimen of astronaut fitness and centrifuge training. His training includes extensive tennis and cycling.
Virgin Galactic has already completed several successful trial flights this year. The next phase of testing will see the rockets test their endurance and range, hopefully soon reaching the limits of space.
Those who wish to journey into space with Branson will have to pony up the cash. The trip — a 2.5-hour journey with six minutes of weightlessness — will set you back $250,000. But Branson said there may be hope for those who can’t afford that hefty price tag. He told CNBC he expects the price could fall down to about $40,000 or $50,000 within the next 10 years. The price fall could take a while, though. There are already more than 700 people on Virgin Galactic’s waiting list.