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Sir Richard Branson vows to continue space mission

Britain's most famous entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has vowed today that both he and his Oxfordshire-based family WILL be going into space. That's despite the death of one of his pilots - killed when the Virgin Galactic spaceship crashed during a test flight in the United States. Juliette Fletcher has more

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Branson: People still signing up to fly in space-plane

Sir Richard Branson has said that people have continued to sign up for his plan for space tourism, despite the crash over the weekend. The Virgin boss said he even had two people sign up for a space flight on the day of crash.

Responding to safety questions raised by from former employees, Mr Branson said: "We have 400 of the world's best engineers working there, we have very few engineers ever leave us because they love working for the company.

"We're going to achieve some incredible things and I think we are going to make a radical difference to this world," he added.

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Branson: 'Self-proclaimed experts wrong about explosion'

Sir Richard Branson has told ITV News that he felt "uncomfortable" over the weekend as "self-proclaimed experts" said that an explosion brought down the Virgin Galactic space-plane.

He said: "We knew there was no explosion. We knew that the fuel tanks and engine were all intact, and we found it uncomfortable over the weekend when so many self-proclaimed experts, particularly in the UK, came out saying there had been an explosion."

For the full interview with Sir Richard Branson watch the lunchtime ITV News at 1.30pm.

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Desert crash is shattering blow to Branson space dream

Sir Richard Branson is flying out to the crash site of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo after his dream of pioneering commercial space flight suffered a shattering blow in the Mojave desert.

One test pilot was killed while the other ejected and was seriously injured after the SS2 rocket plane exploded and crashed during today's flight.

As ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore reports from the US, the crash in California is a huge setback for an ambitious project that has already suffered a series of problems and delays.

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SpaceShipTwo crash 'hurts' Mojave's test community

The chief executive of Mojave Air and Space Port has said the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane during a test flight in the Mojave desert "hurts" the test community.

Stewart Witt said his team's "hearts, thoughts, prayers" are with the families of the two pilots, one of whom died while the other suffered serious injuries.

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Virgin chief: 'Space is hard and today was a tough day'

The chief executive of Virgin Galactic has said "space is hard and today was a tough day" after the company's SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave desert during a test flight, killing one of the two pilots on board.

"We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today and we're going to get through it," George Whiteside said at a news conference at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Mr Whiteside confirmed Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson would be arriving to join the team on Saturday morning local time.

"The future rests in many ways on hard days like this," he added. "But we believe we owe it to the folks who are flying these vehicles and the folks who have been working so hard on them to understand this and move forward, which is what we'll do."

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Officials 'can't speculate' on SpaceShipTwo crash cause

The chief executive of Mojave Air and Space Port said officials "can't speculate" on the cause of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crash.

Stewart Witt, chief executive of Mojave Air and Space Port. Credit: RTV

Stewart Witt confirmed one pilot died at the scene and another was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital.

Mr Witt said the death of the unnamed pilot "hurts" and said the thoughts and prayers of his team were "absolutely" with the families of the victims.

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Branson's space travel dream inspired by kids' phone-in

Sir Richard Branson revealed in March that his dream to turn commercial space travel into a reality began 26 years ago with a phone-in on a children's TV show.

The billionaire entrepreneur said he registered the name Virgin Galactic Airways after a viewer asked if he would like to go into space during BBC Saturday morning show Going Live in 1988.

Speaking on ITV's The Jonathan Ross Show, he said:

Over the next decade I started travelling around the world meeting technicians and engineers to see if we could find a genius who could build a spaceship that could take you and me into space.

I think it’s going to be the beginning of a whole new era of space travel. Initially we’re going to be giving people a taste of space.

It’s going to be absolutely magnificent. People will become astronauts, they’ll be able to experience zero gravity. They’ll be able to check the world is really round and they’ll have the ride of a lifetime.

In our lifetime I really do believe that we will be able to do London to Australia in a couple of hours. We’ve got 300 wonderful engineers at Virgin Galactic and their dream is to pull that off.

If we can get enough people wanting to fly in (SpaceShipTwo) then we can start building Virgin hotels in space, we can start doing trips to Mars.

– Sir Richard Branson
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