Virgin Galactic to reach space in 'weeks not months'

The upper atmosphere is generally regarded to give way to space at an altitude of 62 miles (100km), almost twice the altitude achieved in the July test flight.

Needless to say, Musk is facing legal action for the former, and has received a $20 million fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission for the latter.

'He obviously doesn't enjoy it, so (he should) clear the decks and concentrate on the creative side'.

Sir Richard said that learning the art of delegation might address Musk's "one flaw" - his controversial tweets.

British billionaire Richard Branson says Virgin Galactic - after years of promises and delays - is just weeks away from conducting its first suborbital test flight.

Virgin Galactic's disaster-struck space tourism programme is apparently nearing final launch readiness, with Branson telling U.S. news site CNBC that: "We should be in space within weeks, not months". In April, Bob Smith, the head of Jeff Bezos's Blue Origins space company, told CNBC the firm still hoped to send tourists to the edge of space by the end of the year.

Branson has previously said he thinks Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin would both "have a person in space roundabout the same time".

Like Branson, who started life as a student entrepreneur and then founded the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies, Elon Musk is seen as something of a visionary in the business world.

But Virgin boss Richard Branson has come out with some bullish words on Galactic's progress.

CEO George Whitesides told the Albuquerque Journal this August that while the company no longer gives a timeline for when commercial operations might begin, he said its long-anticipated move to New Mexico was drawing near.

Test pilots have been putting the SpaceShipTwo craft, VSS Unity, through its paces high above the Mojave desert in California.

The reusable New Shepard rocket and spacecraft is meant to carry up to six space tourists, researchers and/or experiments on brief suborbital flights, the company has said.

Sir Richard conceded earlier this year that the number of spurious claims he has made about Virgin Galactic flight dates was "embarrassing".

Even so, these prices put space tourism, at least during its first generation, out of reach for the vast majority of people on Earth.

For comparison, astronauts at the orbiting International Space Station fly some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

Vanessa Coleman