Branson unveils deal for first commercial space flights

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The Independent Online

The Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson announced his company has signed an agreement potentially worth £14 million to secure the world's first commercial flights to space.

The Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson announced his company has signed an agreement potentially worth £14 million to secure the world's first commercial flights to space.

He revealed his outer space business venture during a press gathering at the Royal Aeronautical Society in Central London this morning.

The licensing deal with Mojave Aerospace Ventures (MAV), which owns the technology, could be worth millions over the next 15 years depending on the number of spaceships built by Virgin.

Prices for each seat are expected to start at £115,000 with three days' flight training. Up to 3,000 astronauts could be flying high in space over a five-year period.

Sir Richard said: "We hope to create thousands of astronauts over the next few years and bring alive their dream of seeing the majestic beauty of our planet from above, the stars in all their glory and the amazing sensation of weightlessness.

"The development will also allow every country in the world to have their own astronauts rather than the privileged few."

He was flanked by aviation legend Burt Rutan, who developed the spaceship design.

His company, Scaled Composites, have built one and it reached a height of 62 miles in June.

It hit the headlines as the worlds first privately-manned space flight.

The spaceship will take part in the Ansari X Prize flight later this week. The competition was set up to encourage private entrepreneurs to build spaceships.

In a separate agreement, MAV is close to finalising a deal with Burt Rutan to use the technology to build spaceships to carry paying passengers on return journeys to the stars for two hours.

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