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Virgin space flight 'set for 2014'


By Sarah Tawton

Virgin Galactic's long-awaited first space flight will take place in 2014, Sir Richard Branson has said.

The entrepreneur said he and his children would be on board the inaugural flight later this year.

Tickets cost more than £125,000, with celebrities including Tom Hanks and Angelina Jolie among those reported to have reserved seats.

Passengers will experience brief periods of weightlessness as the two-hour flight travels to 62 miles above the Earth.

First unmanned flight to take place soon

The launch of the project has been repeatedly put back from its original departure date in 2007.

But Sir Richard has now told The Guardian that the first unmanned test flight is due to take place "soon".

The newspaper also reports that the inaugural flight will be televised live later this year by American broadcaster NBC.

In a statement to the newspaper, NBC said: "Without a doubt, Sir Richard and his children taking the first commercial flight into space will go down in history as one of the most memorable events on television."

Sir Richard told the Guardian's Weekend magazine: "When I started Virgin Atlantic, I knew nothing about running airlines.

"I just felt somebody should be able to do it better than British Airways.

"Then we got a lot of creative people who weren't from the airline world to go and shake up the business. Starting a spaceship company is not that dissimilar."

Goal of launching a commercial flight into space

Virgin Galactic is owned by Sir Richard's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments PJS.

Its SpaceShipTwo made its third rocket-powered supersonic flight in the Mojave Desert in January, soaring to a record 71,000 feet.

Virgin Galactic said the reusable space vehicle was carried by aeroplane to 46,000 feet and then released, using its rocket motor the rest of the way.

SpaceShipTwo and its two-member crew then glided to a safe landing in the desert north of Los Angeles.

The company said the 10-minute test flight had moved it closer to its goal of launching a commercial flight into space.

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