Following a successful test launch of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Thursday, Richard Branson said he's planning on heading up to space "in the middle of next year" and that space tourists will also make the trip shortly afterward.
SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, reached an astounding altitude of 271,268ft (82km) after released by its carrier plane at 43,000ft (13km) It reached a high speed of 2.9 times the speed of sound.
The company said that during the flight the spaceship reached Mach 2.9, almost three times the speed of sound, as it touched what it considers to be the edge of space.
"We are pleased that Virgin Galactic is among the many pioneers of space flight helping write a new chapter in aerospace history".
Virgin Galactic Mission Control confirmed the spaceships safe entry into space with the message to the two astronaut pilots: "Unity, Welcome to Space".
Flown by two pilots, Mark Nasa and Stucky astronaut Frederick Sturckow, the aircraft made its rapid ascent because the rocket motor burned for 60 seconds.
'Who shed a tear here?'I was shedding lots. He founded Virgin Galactic after buying the rights in 2004 to the technology behind SpaceShipOne, the spacecraft funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen that made it to the edge of space three times that year, winning the $10 million Ansari X prize and becoming the first privately funded vehicle to fly humans to space. "We're going to need another White Knight to be built", he said, referring to the mothercraft that carries the passenger vehicle high enough for it to be launched into space. With recent progress towards launching commercial flights, Mr Branson said he was ready to re-open bookings.
"But let's not forget that space is also hard and we daily recognise the commitment and sacrifice that has been so consistently shown by our unbelievable Mojave family".
At some point, he aidd, the operation will move from Mojave Air and Space port - a former naval air base in California that serves as a hub for America's private space industry - to a facility created to handle passengers.
"People have literally put their lives on the line to get us here. We extend our congratulations and thanks to each and every one of them". Its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft, consisting of a booster stage and a crew capsule, has gone through nine uncrewed flight tests in West Texas - most recently in July.
"The spaceship was tested to its limits today and she performed just as we wished, and we couldn't be happier".
Stucky and Sturckow are also Virgin Galactic's first astronauts.
No spacecraft with people on board has taken off from United States soil since the American space shuttle programme ended, as scheduled, seven years ago.
"This is a huge step forward and once we look at the data we'll see what that pathway is", he said.