Branson's empire already encompasses Virgin Airlines and he has been working to create manned space travel.
In 2004 he unveiled Space Ship 1 or SS1. His goals were to give "everyday" people an opportunity to go into space for short missions in order to see the vastness that is space.
He had strict requirements in that he wanted the ships to operate on non-oil, be not only environmentally friendly, but also far superior to any other space travel methods out there.
He (along with his team or astronauts, physicists, engineers) designed the ship.
Currently, they unveiled SS2 a newer rendition of the first model.
Here is the craft. It seats 6-8 passengers and 2 astronauts/pilots. Each passenger has ample space of which to experience zero gravity, once in space.
Passengers go through an extensive 3 day training mission to prepare for space travel.
Tickets are $200,000 per seat. While this is a ton of money, think about how much a first class seat costs to get to the other side of the country. $200,000 is really not exorbitant for the mission, but that is personal choice.
Actress & business magnate Victoria Principal has already signed up for the first launch scheduled in 2011. If you are interested, here is the link for more info.
But, to think that in my lifetime, space travel has become an option for civilians. What an amazing thing.
I am thrilled to see a private company (small business) doing this and increasing our capabilities. Previously, NASA had a monopoly (sponsored and controlled by the government). They use 50 year old technology and archaic ways because they have no competition, no drive to improve. NASA is a dinosaur, set in its ways. It is criminal that bureaucracy has made advancements in our technology at a stand still. NASA has made tremendous leaps and discoveries, but have been hindered by restrictions and red tape that makes competition so healthy and successful.
I am thrilled to see someone attempting to make space travel safe and accessible.