July 12, 2012

Branson’s Family Will Be Virgin Galactic’s First

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Richard Branson announced on Wednesday at the Farnborough Airshow near London that he and his family would be on Virgin Galactic's first trip into space.

Branson showed off a full size mock-up of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo aircraft at the show this week.

"Obviously this is the most exciting adventure I have ever undertaken," Branson, founder of the Virgin Galactic space program, told AFP.

"It's both an entrepreneurial and personal adventure in being able to build a spaceship and ask my (two adult) children to come along."

Virgin has had 529 people sign up for the two-hour $200,000 ride into space, including actor Ashton Kutcher and scientist Stephen Hawking.

"I wanted to be the first Irishman in space and I'm really looking forward to it," Irish businessman and author Bill Cullen, 70, told AFP. "I've been interested in space ever since I followed comic hero Dan Dare when I was a kid."

The WhiteKnightTwo aircraft will launch SpaceShipTwo and its passengers into space in late 2013 or early 2014.

Branson also introduced a new launch vehicle, LauncherOne, at the airshow, destined to take satellites into orbit.

Virgin Galactic wasn't the only company that tried making a splash at the event this week.

Airbus announced deals on Wednesday for its planes worth up to $5.4 billion, including an order from U.S. leasing company CIT for 10 of its A330 planes worth $2.3 billion.

"When a leading leasing company like CIT, places a repeat order for our aircraft, we take that as a strong sign of customer satisfaction," Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier said at the event.

Boeing also announced that Avolon planned to buy 25 of its short-haul aircraft, including 15 of its new fuel-efficient 737 MAX jets. The company said the deal was worth $2.3 billion.