Launched back in 2004, Virgin Galactic promised to see us, average people, up in space for a most modest fee of £121,000. Despite having over 550 sign-ups (totalling £67 million in potential income), the service has yet to launch, eight years on.
This is all about to change however; SpaceShip Two is coming to the end of its testing phase and will be ready for commercial use next year, capable of carrying a compliment of two pilots and six passengers. We're not quite ready for super-fast flights to Australia or Japan, as initially the service will be running only from Spaceport America in New Mexico, however Mr Branson does have plans for a world-wide roll-out in the distant future.
Punters will fly to heights of 68 miles above the earth, breaching the space boundary of 62 miles, allowing them to experience of total of six minutes of weightlessness. Once in orbit the flight will last two and a half hours, with the ship topping-out at around 2,600 mph, over twice the speed of some of our most modern fighter jets; which could in theory, just about have you on the other side of the planet in the two and a half hour time-frame.
The first two ships in the fleet are named the VSS Enterprise and VSS Voyager, after ships from the famous StarTrek TV show. Richard Branson has confirmed that both himself and his two sons will be present on the first flight, which is due to launch next year. However, for the bulk of its services, Virgin Galactic has something else in mind for its long-term business plan...