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You could soon be traveling across the world on rockets, not planes: Virgin Galactic CEO

People could be traveling from country to country by rockets connected by "spaceports" in the future, the chief executive of Virgin Galactic told CNBC on Wednesday.

Virgin Galactic is the space travel company founded by Richard Branson with the aim of taking satellites into space, as well allowing passengers to take suborbital flights above the Earth for $250,000.

But the company also is developing plans for spacecraft to transport people across the Earth.

"We have, actually, very exciting plans on the horizon in terms of high-speed point to point travel," George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, revealed in an interview with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"You basically jump in a spaceship and go around the planet."


The second version of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, which was renamed the VSS Unity when it was unveiled in February 2016.
Jack Brockway | Virgin Galactic
The second version of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, which was renamed the VSS Unity when it was unveiled in February 2016.

Virgin Galactic's only base right now is in New Mexico and called a "spaceport." But Whitesides said that the company has been approached by some countries to open spaceports in other locations. This could lead to a network of spaceports, just like airports nowadays.

"That will form a network of spaceports that we could then use as the earliest form of point-to-point transportation. … It will take time, but what you'll see is a network of high-speed transportation networks, so we don't have to spend 10 to 15 hours crossing continents as we do today."

Whitesides said that people will travel in "some form of new propulsion, rocket-based" vehicle.

Last year, Virgin Galactic restarted test flights after a fatal crash with one of its rockets in 2014. Whitesides said he has a timeline when he would like the first passenger flight to take place, but did not want to reveal it.

"[It will happen] pretty soon. … I don't like to put any pressure on our engineers, so they are going to get there as soon as they can get there safely. We have a bunch more flight tests to do … when everything is checked out, we're going to move that spaceflight system down to New Mexico … and we're going to start operation," Whitesides told CNBC.

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