The race to send the first fee-paying passengers into space is heating up, as entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic is "weeks" away from its first trip into space.
Speaking to news website CNBC, Sir Richard said, “We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years.”
He said the commercial spaceflight company, which was founded in 2004, would be taking people into space "not too long after" that.
Sir Richard insisted there was huge demand for commercial space flights.
"If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it.”
The company first promised sub-orbital spaceflight trips for tourists by the start of 2009, but Sir Richard’s ambitions have been hampered by delays and the VSS Enterprise crash in 2014, which resulted in the death of the spacecraft’s co-pilot.
His announcement comes shortly after rival SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk unveiled the first private passenger it plans to fly around the Moon – a mission planned for 2023.
Meanwhile, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has said his space travel firm Blue Origin will launch a manned mission into space by 2019.