Alex Tai, its operations director, who will pilot Virgin's first commercial space flight in 2008, has held talks with US hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow about the project, Virgin Galactic's president Will Whitehorn confirmed.
Bigelow Aerospace is developing inflatable pods it believes could receive the first space travellers by the end of the decade. Branson, Virgin Galactic's chairman, revealed the space hotel discussions in Dubai last week.
Branson said: 'We are talking to people who are developing hotels for space. We are also talking to people who are developing launch craft to get hotels into space. People know that we can turn something that might seem a bit bizarre into a commercial reality. Personally, I think there's a demand for space hotels.'
Space hotels have also long been an interest of Burt Rutan, the engineering brain behind Virgin's SpaceShipTwo, the company said.
Branson last week announced that the Spaceship Company, the 70:30 joint venture between Virgin Galactic and Rutan's Scaled Composites, was set to begin construction of its first space craft, SpaceShipTwo, within six weeks.
Virgin Galactic is keeping the design of SpaceShipTwo secret. It spent $25m (E20.6m, £14.4m) on the design and will spend $100m on construction. The plane, about the size of a Gulfstream jet, is modelled on SpaceShipOne, a design by Rutan which won the $10m Ansari Xprize in October 2004 after completing its second voyage into space. It travelled to 50,000 feet on the back of a carrier aircraft. It then accelerated from 140 knots to supersonic speeds within 11 seconds. It has a 'feather design' which allows the plane to float to earth safely like a shuttlecock.
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Source - The Business
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