Virgin Galactic's Branson reveals space hotel idea

Founder of space travel firm, part-owned by Abu Dhabi, says he’ll build Virgin hotels in space if flights are successful
By Courtney Trenwith
Tue 11 Mar 2014 01:20 PM

Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has revealed he wants to build hotels in space if his space travel company Virgin Galactic is successful.

Virgin Galactic - backed by the Abu Dhabi government’s Aabar Investments - is expected to launch its first space flight within three months, marking the first commercial trip into outer space in history.

Branson, who also spoke about his plans to launch commercial space flights between London and Australia during a recent trip to Dubai, said if the flights are commercially successful there were numerous plans for space-related enterprises.

“If we can get enough people wanting to fly [to space] we can start building Virgin hotels in space, we can start doing trips to Mars, we can colonise Mars, we can start pulling asteroids back to Earth to see what minerals they have got in them,” he said during an interview on The Jonathan Ross show in the UK on Saturday.

Branson already has several accommodation offerings under the brand Virgin Hotels.

While in Dubai last month, the Virgin Group founder said Virgin Galactic would one day rival Dubai’s Emirates Airline in offering long-distance travel by air.

Branson said he expected regular passenger services within about 12 years, offering an alternative to aeroplane travel.

Abu Dhabi also will potentially play a key role in the future of space travel after Aabar Investments bought a 35 percent stake in Virgin Galactic in 2009 for $300m.

The company is planning to build a space port at Abu Dhabi, which would make the emirate a global air space hub, although Branson said the plan was several years away and would require US export approval.

Flights on board a Virgin Galactic spaceship – of which the company has two at the moment – will initially cost $250,000.

The first passengers also signed up include celebrities Ashton Kucher, Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bierber.

Branson said it would take “about three years” for the company to make a profit.

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