Then, it’ll be ready to fly its first paying customers.
Hundreds of people are lined up to ride a short high-speed trip aboard a Virgin Galactic space plane and have agreed to pay $200,000 to $250,000 per seat.
Branson plans to be the first non-crew member to board the plane.
“Hopefully, in not many months’ time, I’ll fulfill my dream of going to space and others will soon follow,” Branson said.
Spaceport America was built about a decade ago by officials in New Mexico mostly using local taxpayer dollars — and it’s been waiting for Virgin Galactic, its anchor tenant, to move in ever since.
But now Virgin Galactic says it’s ready to fulfill its promise of making New Mexico a space tourism and flight viewing destination and offering a major boon for the local economy.
“We’re not just talking about the people we’re sending into space, we’re talking about [bringing out] family and friends,” Branson told CNN Business. “There’ll be flight training inside the spaceport, and there’ll be places to eat for their families, hot air ballooning, fishing and mountain bike riding, etc etc. That’s something that we’ll be organizing.”
Bezos has also spent years working on its space tourism plans, and the company is expected to compete directly with Virgin Galactic in that business. Bezos confirmed Thursday that Blue Origin expects to launch its first person into space by the end of the year.
Branson did not say whether he expects Virgin Galactic to be fully operational before Blue Origin. But he told CNN Business it doesn’t matter much to him.
“It’s tremendous what Jeff [Bezos] and his team are doing,” he said. “And the exciting thing for the world now is that you have Jeff, you have Elon [Musk of SpaceX] and ourselves with different approaches to take people into space and colonize places like the moon in future years.”