Richard Branson to unveil new rocket for space tourism push

Sir Richard's dreams of taking passengers to space is a step closer Credit: Reuters

Sir Richard Branson is set to unveil the new Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo as the company pushes ahead in the race to send passengers into space.

Appearing on Good Morning Britain today, the billionaire businessman stood in front of the "mothership" with the big reveal of the newest craft set to happen in California later on.

More than 700 people are said to have signed up for the novel journey already at a price of £174,500 a ticket - with six seats on board plus crew.

SpaceShipTwo, Serial Number Two's arrival signals a return to testing for Virgin Galactic after its predecessor crashed during a test flight in October 2014.

Today Sir Richard said people "expect companies like Virgin to push forward" and that rigorous testing of the latest ship will take place over the next 12 months.

He added that "hopefully" they are "nearly at the end of a 10-year programme" to get Virgin Galactic and its passengers successfully into space.

"We will send people to space once pilots have tested the ship time and time and time again," he told Good Morning Britain.

The team behind the latest suborbital spaceplane include leaders from NASA's mission control and astronaut corps, military officials from across the globe and representatives of the aviation and transport industries.

Speaking of the latest developments, Virgin Galactic said: "We've charged them with developing a plan to safely test and operate a reusable spacecraft.

"They have done their homework and subjected their processes to expert external reviews, and they are eager to take the proverbial keys to SpaceShip Two."

Debris from the crash site of SpaceShipTwo in October 2014 Credit: Reuters

Last July Mr Branson announced that the programme was "back on track" following an investigation by US authorities into the doomed October 2014 test flight.

Co-pilot Michael Alsbury died when a prototype broke apart over the Mojave desert in California.

A probe by the National Transportation Safety Body found the crash was caused by a catastrophic structural failure triggered when the co-pilot unlocked the craft's breaking system early.

Virgin Galatic said on Thursday it required "clever ideas, lots of hard work, and above all else, lots and lots of testing" for Mr Branson's dream of commerical spaceflight to come true.