According to Sir Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Galactic, commercial flights to space will be possible in less than a year's time, Mashable reported.
Earlier this month, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2) Enterprise hit supersonic for the second time and also climbed to its highest altitude yet, 69,000 feet. Branson also included that, in just its second test flight, the SS2 did not release any carbon emissions.
Like Us on Facebook
Tickets for the SS2 will cost $250,000, but Branson said commercial space travel will serve a higher purpose than to take customers outside the atmosphere.
"Through space travel, we're going to be able to do transformative things for the world," Branson said on stage at the Social Good Summit Tuesday. "We're going to be able to monitor if a ship is fishing illegally - we can spot it live through our satellites. We can check if people are hunting down rhinos."
Earlier this month, the SS2 completed a highly successful test run, passing all of its criteria, Discovery News reported.
"We couldn't be more delighted to have another major supersonic milestone under our belts as we move toward a 2014 start of commercial service," Branson, said. "It was particularly thrilling to see for the first time today the whole elegant system in action during a single flight, including the remarkable feathering re-entry system. It was this safety feature more than anything else that originally persuaded us that the overall design of the system was uniquely fit for purpose. Everything we have seen today just confirms that view. Congratulations to all involved!"
According to Space.com, ticket prices for the first 1,000 passengers will remain in the range of $200,000 to $250,000 in order to keep up with inflation of expenses since the project began.
The SS2 is designed to take six passengers into suborbital space, an altitude of about 361,000 feet. Those on board will be able to see the curvature of the Earth and the deep dark blackness of space. So far, about 580 people have put down deposits to take the ride.