Richard Branson says Virgin Galactic will be in space for test flights 'in weeks not months'

  • "We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years," the Virgin founder and CEO told CNBC at the Barclays Asia Forum in Singapore Tuesday.
  • The serial entrepreneur, who owns the commercial space flight company Virgin Galactic, has invested in space travel since 2004 and was initially expected to go to space himself before April of this year.

British billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson believes Virgin Galactic is "more than tantalizingly close" to its first trip to space.

"We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years," the Virgin founder and CEO told CNBC's Nancy's Hungerford at the Barclays Asia Forum in Singapore Tuesday.

"We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead," he added.

'Gigantic' consumer demand

Earlier this year, Branson admitted Virgin Galactic was in a closely-fought race with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to the get the first fare-paying passengers into space.

The serial entrepreneur, who owns the commercial space flight company Virgin Galactic, has invested in space travel since 2004 and was initially expected to go to space himself before April of this year.

But, having undergone astronaut, fitness and centrifuge training in recent months, Branson now believes he will be ready for his maiden space voyage in a matter of months.

The company added that the next phase of test flights will see its spaceship burn its rockets longer and go faster with the goal of reaching space.

Sir Richard Branson walks around the new Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo at its roll out in the Mojave Desert, about a year and a half after Virgin's last rocket plane broke into pieces and killed the test pilot. 
Al Seib | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
Sir Richard Branson walks around the new Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo at its roll out in the Mojave Desert, about a year and a half after Virgin's last rocket plane broke into pieces and killed the test pilot. 

When asked whether he had any concerns about consumer demand regarding fare-paying space flights, Branson replied: "If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it."

"So I think the market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is gigantic. And it is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater with that demand."

How much?

A ticket on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two does not come cheap. Currently, the fare price stands at around $250,000.

Yet, while the cost of a commercial trip to space with Virgin Galactic is not expected to come down in the immediate future, Branson said "ultimately" he would like to see the price fall to around $40,000 or $50,000 over the next decade.

A report published by Bank of America Merrill Lynch late last year projected the space sector would be worth at least $2.7 trillion over the next three decades.

Meanwhile, Virgin Orbit — which was spun off from Virgin Galactic last year — is gearing up to launch small satellites into space "in either December or January."

Branson said he hopes this will help people across the world become better connected.