Virgin Galactic is weeks away from reaching space, CEO Richard Branson says

Virgin Galactic will be in space in “weeks not months,” says Branson

Virgin Galactic will be in space in “weeks not months,” says Branson

He admitted that it has taken him "at least seven years longer than I thought it would" for Virgin Galactic to reach this point, but he says the countdown is on for the first spaceship, which will take off in a matter of weeks.

When asked about consumer demand for space travel, he told CNBC: "I think the market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is very big". Branson was referring to the Virgin Galactic spaceship being developed by the company for future commercial trips into space. And that'll be a legitimate offsettable business expense for professional Instagrammers, so there ought to be loads of them up flying about up there, pouting in front of small, black windows. Despite the $US250,000 ($350,834) price tag, however, some 800 people have bought Virgin Galactic tickets since they went on sale almost 15 years ago.

Virgin's commercial space flight venture was founded in 2004 and has been competing with Elon Musk's SpaceX and Amazon to send the first paying passengers to the stars.

Richard Branson has warned space race rival Elon Musk that he must "learn the art of delegation" and "get some sleep" if he is to avoid further controversy. This was a positive step forward after Virgin Galactic's 2014 fatal crash that killed test pilot Michael Alsbury and injured pilot Peter Siebold.

But while Sir Richard believes Musk is "doing fantastically well" in getting cargo into space - including his own auto - the real tussle is between the Virgin boss and Bezos.

Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday Branson said his project was "more than tantalizingly close" to launching and he will be putting people in space not too long after that.

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.

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

The multi-millionaire admitted earlier this year that the number of spurious claims he has made about Virgin Galactic flight dates was "embarrassing". Right now the price of a Virgin Galactic ticket is nearly $250,000-and it won't be dropping anytime soon. The company expects its New Shepard suborbital vehicle to carry the first space tourists into orbit in 2019.

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