Richard Branson wants to be in space, and he thinks he’ll get there soon.
According to an interview with Branson by Business Insider Nordic, the Virgin Galactic founder hopes that his spaceflight company will be in space in 3 months, and that Branson himself will fly in about 6 months.
“We are hopefully about three months before we are in space, maybe six months before I’m in space,” Branson said during the interview. This is in line with previous timelines put forth by the company, but it’s a bit more solid than other recent predictions Branson has made.
Branson’s projection comes as vice president and head of the National Space Council Mike Pence visits Virgin Galactic in Mojave, California Tuesday.
Pence’s visit to Virgin’s facilities makes sense in no small part because Branson’s company is expected to be one of the first private entities to fly paying customers to space from U.S. soil.
Commercial spaceflight is a key part of U.S. innovation in space. From Virgin Galactic to SpaceX to Blue Origin, these private companies are driving spaceflight in the U.S. forward, and it’s clear from this visit that Pence understands that.
Branson plans to be on the first commercial flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo space plane, which is currently in the process of flying a number of glide test flights before starting powered tests later this fall using its rocket booster.
Those rocket-powered flights should bring the craft to space, 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, above the ground. A ticket to take the suborbital rocket ride with Virgin Galactic costs $250,000.
There’s plenty of reasons to doubt Branson’s new timeline, however, since it comes after years of projections that haven’t come to pass.
Previous Branson predictions would have had Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo flying its hundreds of customers to space already, but a fatal accident in October 2014 set Virgin Galactic back.
The SpaceShipTwo crash killed one test pilot and severely injured another, destroying the company’s first space plane in the process.