NBCUniversal has signed an exclusive partnership with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to televise the space tourism company's first commercial passenger flight. Expected to take place next August, the flight will covered in a special three-hour edition of the US NBC network's Today program. Aboard the VSS Enterprise, will be Sir Richard, age 63, and his children, Holly, 31, and Sam, 28. The other passengers and crew have not yet been named.
NBCUniversal will track the final development of the Enterprise over the coming months and the flight itself will be broadcast and streamed across multiple NBCUniversal platforms, including MSNBC, CNBC, SYFY, the Weather Channel and NBCNews.com. There will also be a primetime special on NBC the night before the launch.
“Without a doubt, Sir Richard and his children taking the first commercial flight into space will go down in history as one of the most memorable events on television,” says Sharon Scott, President and General Manager, Peacock Productions. “Through NBCUniversal’s multiple platforms and overseas network partners, viewers from around the world will get to experience this where were you moment; we’re extremely honored to chronicle Sir Richard’s journey and live launch into space.”
“Virgin Galactic is thrilled that NBCUniversal will join us on our exciting first journey to space,” says Sir Richard. “In this first chapter of commercial space travel, we will help make space accessible and inspire countless more people to join us in the pursuit of space exploration and science innovation.”
Though the first flight is scheduled for August, flight testing may cause delays. "They are hoping for August, but it's completely engineering-driven," Says Scott. "There's no guarantee for that. August is the desire."
If all goes according to schedule, the VSS Enterprise will take off from Galactic’s terminal at Spaceport America in New Mexico slung beneath the WhiteKnightTwo mothership named VMS Eve. After being dropped by the mothership at 50,000 ft, VSS Enterprise will fire its hybrid rocket motor and carry its six passengers and two crew to an altitude of 68 mi (110 km) on a suborbital trajectory.
Once in space, the passengers will be free to leave their seats to enjoy several minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth in an unpowered glide.
The price of the trip is US$250,000 per person, and Virgin Galactic says it has already accepted roughly US$80 million in deposits from about 640 customers.