British billionaire Richard Branson said his Virgin Galactic venture is on track to carry its first fare-paying passenger to the edge of space this year, and that he plans to take his family on a flight some time in 2014.
Virgin Galactic, which completed the third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle from Mojave Air and Space Port in California last month, is on course to meet its operational targets, Branson said yesterday in Dubai.
"It will be the start of a whole new space era," the entrepreneur said at the 2014 United Arab Emirates Government Summit, predicting that his plan to give paying guests a taste of zero gravity for $200,000 will be profitable in three years.
Writing in his book Branson Behind the Mask, published on February 6, author Tom Bower says a combination of safety regulations, performance issues and the physical challenges of a rocket launch means Virgin Galactic is unlikely ever to attain its goal of carrying passengers into sub-orbital flight.
"There are some people who seem to want things to fail and I think he falls into that category," Branson said later at a UK trade and investment invent in Dubai. "The best way of dealing with people like that is to prove them wrong and we will prove them wrong in the next few months."