Sir Richard Branson has set his sights a little bit higher than most entrepreneurs and is creating a space program Virgin Galactic which will one day transport wealthy tourists into space. He is currently building a space port in Southern New Mexico. This space port will house the mission support station. Virgin Galactic also has space ports in the Mojave Desert and Sweden; and Mr. Branson is considering other space port locations in England or Scotland. In 2007, he signed a collaboration agreement with NASA and is now working on acquiring the required permits for launch.
Virgin Galactic has its own space ship building company, and they have created some very flight worthy and futuristic designs. Already, they have two ship designs built; the White Knight Two is the original design and often referred to as “Eve”, by Mr. Branson in honor of his mother. The other ship is the newest and simply called Spaceship Two. Test flights and glides of both ships have been conducted in the Mojave Desert, and while largely successful, they are still fine-tuning the ships.
Mr. Branson hopes to conduct his first flight with passengers by 2014. He and his two children will be among the passengers on the maiden voyage as well as actor Ashton Kutcher and scientist Stephen Hawking. 529 people have signed up for various flights, which is one person more than the total number of astronauts who have launched into space to date. The future is very bright for this self-made billionaire; he is not just taking on the World he is taking on the Galaxy!
Virgin Galactic (2012) The Spaceships. Accessed July 23, 2012. http://www.virgingalactic.com/