ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Sir Richard Branson now has a target date for the first manned flight to space from New Mexico's Spaceport America.
The Virgin Galactic founder said he hopes to rocket into space late this year while most of the rest of us are gathering around the Christmas tree.
For years the question has been when will it happen?
Two weeks after watching the first powered flight of Virgin Galactic's Spaceship Two high over California, Branson gave radio listeners in Abu Dhabi a pretty good clue.
"I will be going up on the first flight, which I hope will be about Dec. 25th of this year," Branson told a radio interviewer. "So maybe I'll dress up as father Christmas."
Whether that will actually happen is still up in the air.
More test flights have to take place before Virgin Galactic can start flying into space.
A spokesperson for the New Mexico spaceport told News 13 Virgin Galactic has not yet notified spaceport officials of any plans to launch in December.
Regardless it is clear Branson's confidence about the program is growing.
"We're going to be ramping up the building of rockets," Branson said. "It's going to be the start of a whole new era of space travel. It's going to be tremendously exciting."
A Virgin Galactic spokesman cautioned that safety will dictate the space flight timeline.
While Branson hopes to fly into space on Christmas Day, the company does not expect to start flying passengers until sometime next year.
Regardless of the timing, Spaceport officials say they will be ready. Construction of the runway at the port in southeastern Sierra County will be finished by the end of June.
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