Innovation

Richard Branson says he’ll be in space “within months”: Is the entrepreneur’s persistence about to pay off?

Matthew Elmas /

One of the more interesting exploits of internationally recognised entrepreneurs in recent years has been their fixation on space travel.

There’s a joyful exuberance when the so-called ‘final frontier’ is brought up around the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson, who are clearly trying to reclaim a sense of exploration 18th-century sailors enjoyed.

Musk has SpaceX, Bezos has Blue Origin, and Branson, well he has Virgin Galactic.

And while the British entrepreneur hasn’t received as many headlines for his own extraterrestrial ambition as Musk has, he may be about to score a major victory.

SpaceX plans to send its first human into space in June 2019, but in a recent interview with CNBC Branson said Virgin Galactic would be in space in “weeks not months” and he himself would be going up in “months not years”.

If Branson’s timeline holds, he could beat SpaceX to the punch getting a human into space, which would be an impressive turnaround given Musk has been sending rockets into orbit for a while.

Branson has admitted previously that SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are in a bit of a space race of sorts to get people into orbit, although there’s no word on whether he gets bonus points for going up himself (he should).

The whole thing is an interesting look into how experienced entrepreneurs navigate innovation, particularly when there’s so much on the line.

Branson has made predictions about when Virgin Galactic would get through key milestones before and has often been wrong, something that he has conceded has been “embarrassing”.

But he’s putting his money where his mouth is. He thinks space travel is a “gigantic” potential industry and has stuck by his vision since 2004, all the while piling up bills.

Tickets on initial flights won’t be cheap. The going rate for initial flights is $250,000, although Branson says he wants that figure to dramatically decrease to about $40,000 to $50,000 over the next decade.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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