Branson still aims to send passengers to space after Virgin Galactic crash

World Today

Richard Branson hoped to enter a new frontier by offering the world’s first tourist space flights, but now he faces questions about the program after the first test flight crashed in the California desert, killing one, last week. CCTV America’s Owen Fairclogh reported this story.

Branson still aims to send passengers to space after Virgin Galactic crash

The man behind Virgin Galactic has already set records in hot air balloons, pioneered discount music sales and started an international airline. Richard Branson's next frontier the world's first tourist space flights.But as CCTV America's Owen Fairclogh reports, there are question marks over the the program after the test flight crash.

Billionaire Branson’s dream of sending passengers into space, now lies in pieces across the Mojave Desert. The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crashed just months before the British entrepreneur planned to be on board.

But the founder of the Virgin empire is determined to be the first passenger.

“We can move forward. We have spent many, many years building a space craft, a mother ship, a space port that I think can do the job and can do the job safely. But we will not start taking people until we finish a whole massive series of test flights and until myself and my family have gone up and until we feel that we can take safely, and say to people: ‘We are ready to go,” Branson said.

Air accident investigators have yet to establish the exact cause of the disaster that claimed the life of the co-pilot and injured the pilot. But their inquiry is focused on the early deployment of re-entry equipment, contradicting earlier reports that an experimental fuel mix had caused an explosion.

“Among other things, they found the fuel tanks, the oxidizer tanks, and the engine and all were intact, showed no signs of burn-through, no signs of being breached, and those will also be investigated further,” said Christopher Hart, acting chairman, U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

There are also questions about the financial viability of the ambitious space tourism project. Branson’s Virgin Group has been funding the venture out of its own pocket. The key outside partner and financier is an Abu Dhabi investor. According to a Financial Times report, launch delays have left the venture without sources of revenue. Virgin Galactic had hoped to start taking the first of about 700 pre-booked passengers, who have paid $250,000 each, into space next spring. That timetable is now likely to be revised.
CCTV America is joined by Mitch Garber who worked on all kinds of disasters for the National Transportation Safety Board including the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, to talk about Virgin Galactic crash.

Mitch Garber of ESI discusses recent Virgin Galactic crash

CCTV America is joined by Mitch Garber who worked on all kinds of disasters for the National Transportation Safety Board including the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, to talk about Virgin Galactic crash.