TECHNOLOGY

Richard Branson Gets Back in the Space Race

Virgin Galactic plans to launch its first powered test flight this fall, two and half years after a fatal crash halted the company’s plans.

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BY Emily Canal - 06 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The commercial space race is heating up, with the return of a big-name competitor: Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.

The company announced Wednesday that its first powered test flight in two and half years is scheduled to take place this fall.

Las Cruces, New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic's experimental rocket plane crashed in the Mojave Desert in October 2014. Co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed and the company's first scheduled commercial flight was put on hold.

Despite the accident, Branson believes there is strong demand for space travel and plenty of room for competitors.

"We will never be able to build enough spaceships," Branson told Bloomberg News. "The demand is enormous."

Branson said the company plans to conduct powered tests of its spacecraft every three weeks with the goal of extending them to space by November or December. Full commercial passenger operations would start by the end of next year after Branson completes his own flight, Bloomberg reported.

Virgin Galactic's announcement came the same day that Elon Musk's SpaceX launched its tenth Falcon 9 rocket of 2017.