Branson to take kids on first space tourist trip (Update)

July 11, 2012 by Nilay Syam
British billionaire Richard Branson in the window of a replica of the spaceship he plans to launch for his new Virgin Galactic space tourism programme, at the Farnborough Air Show in Britain on Wednesday. Branson said Wednesday that he and his family will be the first on board his new Virgin Galactic space tourism programme.

British tycoon Richard Branson said Wednesday his children would join him on the first of his Virgin Galactic space flights, as he unveiled a new satellite launching service.

Outlining his plans at the Farnborough Air Show in southwest England, the billionaire entrepreneur said he and his adult son Sam and daughter Holly hoped to make the journey on the SpaceShipTwo, or SS2, aircraft by the end of 2013.

The WhiteKnightTwo aircraft that will help launch SS2 into space will also be used for a new launch vehicle, LauncherOne, which will take small satellites into space for around one tenth of the present cost, Branson said.

"Obviously this is the most exciting adventure I have ever undertaken," the Virgin Galactic founder told AFP.

"It's both an entrepreneurial and personal adventure in being able to build a spaceship and ask my children to come along who can also enjoy it. It's every boy's dream."

Branson unveiled a full size replica of SS2 at the show.

In all, 529 people have put down a deposit to clinch a space on the 60-mile, two-hour ride into space, at a cost of £128,000 ($200,000, 162,000 euros) each. Around 120 of them were at the Branson event in Farnborough.

Actor Ashton Kutcher and scientist Stephen Hawking are among the aspiring astronauts who have signed up to join the programme when it gets under way in late 2013 to early 2014, according to Branson.

British tycoon Richard Branson poses with a model of Launcher One, an air-launched rocket, to the crowd during a photocall for Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, at the Farnborough International Airshow in Hampshire, southern England, on Wednesday. Branson said he and his family will be the first on board his new Virgin Galactic space tourism programme.

Irish businessman and author Bill Cullen, 70, was the first to sign up for a trip, in 2004.

"I wanted to be the first Irishman in space and I'm really looking forward to it, he said. "I've been interested in space ever since I followed comic hero Dan Dare when I was a kid."

The flights are expected to start from Spaceport America in New Mexico with plans afoot to build a second spaceport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

"Virgin Galactic's goal is to revolutionise the way we get to space," Branson said. "I'm immensely proud of what we have already achieved as we draw near to regular suborbital flights on SpaceShipTwo."

The WhiteKnightTwo, a large twin-fuselage aircraft joined by a central wing, will launch the SS2 craft -- which carries two pilots and six passengers -- at approximately 50,000 feet (15,240 metres).

Once separated from the mothership, the vehicle will ignite its hybrid rocket and fly to the edge of space before gliding back to perform a conventional runway landing.

Passengers will be able to experience a brief period of weightlessness as its flight path overlaps Earth's upper atmosphere.

In a separate enterprise, LauncherOne is expected to begin commercial operations in 2016 and can carry up to 227 kilos (500 pounds) of weight for prices below $10 million (£642,500).

Branson said LauncherOne would bring satellite launch "into the realm of affordability" for organisations ranging from national space agencies to new businesses and even schools.

"It will be a critical new tool for the global research community, enabling us all to learn about our home planet more quickly and affordably," he said.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said there was a high demand for a satellite launching service despite the difficult economic climate.

"Miniaturised satellite components and constrained budgets are driving commercial clients, academic users and government agencies all to clamour for an affordable, dedicated launch vehicle," he said.

Explore further: Virgin to launch space tourism in 18 months: Branson

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1 / 5 (1) Jul 11, 2012
4 years later than his first prediction is still better than never.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 11, 2012
I think Branson and scaled composites have been left in the dust by SpaceX!!! Sub-orbital just isn't interesting!!!!
By the time LauncherOne can lift 227 Kg, SpaceX will be lifting 50 tonne into space using their heavy lifter.
I guess the difference is an amusement park style joy-ride Vs real space engineering technology that can move humans into working in space.
Sorry but scaled composites ,might have got in first, but then took too long to bring it to market, and have achieved nothing more than a joy-ride machine!!!! What a wasted effort!!!
The Singularity
1 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2012
NASA are behind Spacex . Branson funds himself. You are comparing apples to oranges. Virgin will be the worlds FIRST commercial space line. SpaceX will not.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2012
NASA are behind Spacex . Branson funds himself. You are comparing apples to oranges. Virgin will be the worlds FIRST commercial space line. SpaceX will not.

In the context of this article, specifically about shooting satellites into orbit, Ober is correct.

The price is too high, and only competes with orbital sciences - which has a similar priced launch system using a similar method.

Fact is, this type of launch can only appeal to a scenario where a cash limited institution has a small satellite, and cannot pack their satellite with other satellites for some reason - because you could put 50 of these on a dragon for 1 Million each. So there's that.

Second fact, the entire market for this type of launch at this price range is already a known factor - you're only looking at a few launches a year. Seems hardly worth it, considering the amount of tourism money available.
The Singularity
1 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2012
In the context of this article...

Which is about Virgin Galactic, Ober feels the need the talk about spacex??.
Imagine the logistics of 50 different customers, with 50 different satelites, wanting to be put into 50 different orbits. Never gona happen. Heavy lift is suited to much bigger projects.
Therefore a different market.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2012
First: the 50 satellites on a single rocket was just to illustrate the extreme price difference per pound.

Second: The logistics of a smaller amount of micro satellites is not that difficult. It is not uncommon to have 6 or more satellites on a single rocket. So, even if you launch 6 satellites on a falcon rocket, with massive amounts of capacity to spare, you still come out ahead.

Also, there could be a medium satellite with some room to spare, and you could pack a small satellite on top for a deal.

Third: for the same price, you could put your satellite on a proven rocket - the pegasus - and have double the weight limit.

When branson is releasing an inferior product in every way, into a submarket that has 2 launches a year, he is just stroking himself. That is the only correct conclusion here.

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