Sir Richard Branson has shocked the world time and time again, but his Virgin Galactic project stole headlines back in October for all the wrong reasons.
When SpaceShipTwo exploded in mid-air over California’s Mojave desert, killing one test pilot and seriously injuring another, many doubted that the British billionaire would continue striving to make commercial space flights a reality.
Branson, a serial entrepreneur, held a hope to send paying customers outside of earth’s atmosphere for upwards of US $250,000 a ticket, with a string of celebrities rumoured to have been in the mix.
Even though the waiting list may have since thinned, it has been announced that work has begun on a new sub-orbital space plane, which could commence test flights later this year and that the tourist flights to the edge of space could be a reality by 2016.
The 64-year-old took to Twitter to tell his 5.09 million followers that Virgin Galactic is marching on with a new spacecraft, linking to a blog post that went onto say there would even be a third vessel in the works later this year.
Speaking of the company’s plans for the year ahead, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides commented: “Most of all, we remain committed to the goal of opening space to all. 2015 will be an important and exciting year, and we are looking forward to the future.”
SpaceShipTwo is designed to reach the edge of space at an altitude of 100 kilometres, or 62 miles, before returning to Earth and more than 700 individuals have signed up to pay the necessary fee.
Most recently, Virgin Galactic unveiled its newest facility, dedicated to satellite launch vehicle, LauncherOne. The 150,000 square foot venue is at Long Beach Airport and the company said it would host a career fair next month as it continues to grow and move forward.
Meanwhile, Bloon continues with plans to take intrepid travellers to a height of 22 miles aboard a large helium balloon – all for a much more affordable US $126,000