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Richard Branson: Virgin Galactic takes astronauts to space before Christmas

Tune in to the CNN Business live stream from Galactics Spaceport in Mojave, California, on Friday at 3 p.m. ET.…

Tune in to the CNN Business live stream from Galactics Spaceport in Mojave, California, on Friday at 3 p.m. ET.

The billionaire entrepreneur told CNN Business & Rachel Crane this week, he is “pretty sure” his space tourism company can reach its milestone by the end of the year.

“We have a brilliant group of astronauts who literally believe in 100% of the project and give them everything,” he said.

The first excursions to space will be piled by test pilots without anyone else on board. Branson says he will be the first passenger. Eventually, paying tourists will also make the trip.

“I’m not allowed until [test pilots] has broken it a couple of times, first,” he said. “I would love to have gone on this flight, but [pilots] are incredibly courageous people.”

SpaceShipTwo, the galactic rocket-controlled plan, will fly into space after it loosens under the wing of a maternity. It has been thoroughly tested on the ground and at lower altitudes, Branson said. But the first flights to space will be “the dangerous”.

Pilots fly the spacecraft at 2,300 miles an hour and accelerate to peak speeds of about eight seconds, Branson said.

Earlier this year, the company resumed driven test flights on the rebuilt SpaceShipTwo, called VSS Unity. The latest test in July sent the boat to a peak of 32.3 miles. The goal is to send VSS Unity more than 50 miles above ground, high enough to earn passengers’ astronauts from the US government.

If Virgin Galactic reaches space before the end of the year, it will put Branson’s venture to its direct competitor Jeff Bezos Blue Origin. Blue Origin was founded in 2000 and is also planning to offer paying customers suborbital flights. Galactic can also beat Elon Musk’s SpaceX &#821

1; which has a thriving activity that makes unmanned trips to orbit and flies to fly astronauts to the International Space Station next year.

“Security is all that matters if you put people in space,” he said. “So neither of us will compete to be the first one.”

However, he added: “Virgin Galactic will be the first.”

“Elon is amazing things. We hope to do extraordinary things.” I know will do extraordinary things, “said Branson.” The demand for space travel, whether it’s satellites, puts people in space, is huge … So exciting times ahead. “

SpaceShipTwo’s design and flight management system was revised after a test crash for 2014 that killed a second pilot.

Branson has said the accident made him the question of continuing to run his most risky venture. But the company said it got a fatigue of support, including from customers who had reserved $ 200,000 to $ 250,000 tickets for a day trip in SpaceShipTwo. Hundreds of people are still lined up for a shot.

The flight will provide tourists a few minutes of weightlessness and views of the earth’s curved horizon.

It’s not clear when Virgin Galactic will be fully functional.

Branson is known to fast set deadlines that are not met. Virgin Galactic has developed SpaceShipTwo since 2004, and Branson initially said commercial rides would start in 2007. Eleven years later, the company is still working on bringing its 600 customers to space.

“The space is hard. Rocket science is rocket science,” says Branson. “I would obviously like to prove our critics wrong, and I’m pretty sure we’ll do it before Christmas. I think when we’re in space, we have to do a number of other test flights before I get up, and then before we start … the astronauts who signed up to enter the space with us. “

Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly indicated SpaceShipTwo’s speed and the number of customers Virgin has lined up for travel.

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