Turning space into Virgin territory

Alisa Roth Feb 21, 2008

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: When it comes to flying, there are few people as bold as Richard Branson. Between his personal exploits and his Virgin airlines, he’s no doubt a pioneer of the skies. Today, we learned more about Branson’s next frontier, Virgin Galactic.
By the name, I think you can guess what that’s about. Here’s Alisa Roth.


Alisa Roth: The official launch of commercial space travel is scheduled for two years from now. But Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson is shooting for the stars: he’s ready to order five more spaceships to add to his fleet. And he thinks the business is ready for lift off: he’s expecting to turn a profit by 2015.

Airline analyst Richard Aboulafia says it could happen:

Richard Aboulafia: I think it’s possible that in a few years, you’ll meet people at very elite cocktail parties who say, “Space, you’ve never been?” or something like that.

With a caveat:

Aboulafia: But of course, they’ll only have been for a few minutes, and not nearly at the altitudes that astronauts experience.

Aboulafia says the financial success of the Virgin enterprise will depend a lot on government subsidy of the up-front costs.

In a video on the Virgin Galactic website, Branson promises the experience will knock would-be Armstrongs off their feet:

Sir Richard Branson: We’re designing our spacecraft so that each of our passengers will have the room and the freedom to enjoy the amazing sensation of weightlessness.

The least you could expect for a $200,000 ticket. How about some free peanuts?

In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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