September 27, 2004

Richard Branson and the world of tomorrow

Brian Micklethwait | Air Miscellany

This has got to be the transport story of the day.

GlobalFlyer.jpg

Sir Richard Branson today announced that he had signed a licensing deal to create a fleet of spacecraft offering commercial flights to space by 2007-8.

Speaking at the launch of Virgin Galactic Airways, Sir Richard said he planned to invest £60m in space tourism, making it accessible to the general public.

The Virgin boss this weekend signed a deal with the California-based Mojave Aerospace Ventures (MAV) for craft based on SpaceShipOne, a rocket-propelled reusable space vehicle created by the aerospace designer Burt Rutan.

Sir Richard said he hoped to offer space flights on which five passengers would each pay £115,000.

I don't know why, but when I first saw this story, I thought: this has got to be a hoax. I looked at the date to see if it had suddenly become April 1st. "Virgin Galactic Airways" sounds like something made up by Private Eye.

And I think there we have what makes Branson such a good businessman. He goes ahead and just does the things that seem ridiculous, until he does them. Here is something that all the other business suits have filed in their brains under "won't work yet", despite the fact that it pretty much works already. Yet, as soon as I became convinced that this was for real, I thought: of course. And it is true. I've just seen in on the TV news.

The way I see it, Branson can't lose on this. The publicity alone will be worth whatever he throws at Rutan. For instance, I bet (and I bet Branson is betting) that lots of people will fly Virgin un-Galactic Airways, just as a way to "vote" for this stuff. It's the kind of thing we'll all want to know about, and which we will all admire, even if it fails. It's far better than bloody balloons.

More from Dale Amon about this over at Samizdata.

Amon makes the Branson/Rutan connection sound very secret and mysterious, until today. But when I googled for pictures with "Branson Rutan", I got to this story involving both gentlemen dated February 11th 2004. So the story has been out there for some time, it would appear.

Trackbacks

Richard Branson - Profit Maximizer
I predicted that space tourism would soon be available and priced under $500,000 per trip. You can read the original June post entitled "Governments Don't Price Well". Now, Richard Branson has announced the formation of a new company called Virgin
voluntaryXchange on October 5, 2004

Richard Branson - Profit Maximizer
I predicted that space tourism would soon be available and priced under $500,000 per trip. You can read the original June post entitled "Governments Don't Price Well". Now, Richard Branson has announced the formation of a new company called Virgin
voluntaryXchange on October 5, 2004

Comments

I'm gonna give Branson five years leeway for delays to get this done, but I think he can do it. Somebody has to be first, and it sure as heck won't be Easyjet.

Posted by R.J. on September 28, 2004

Branson is such a "good businessman".

Most of his companies (at least the ones with the "Virgin" name on them) lose money. His train services rely on public subsidy to be profitable. He wanted the license for the lottery for similar reasons. His airline relies on the scarcity of landing slots and British Airways bashing. He's great at sticking his brand on things and getting other people to take the risk. He doesn't like public scrutiny so he prefers his companies controlled by off-shore holding companies.

He's more Donald Trump than Bill Gates.

Posted by Alternative Energy on September 28, 2004

The media seem to love the grinning beardy one but the word 'charlatan' unaccountably springs to mind..............

Posted by andyman7 on September 29, 2004

I don't like all of Branson's methods, and think he played a statist game in bidding for the Lottery a while back, but unlike some on this thread, I admire the guy's boldness. If it is true and he makes a success of the venture, then he will deserve the plaudits.

A commenter writes that Branson relies on the scarcity of airline slots and BA bashing. Er, exploiting scarcity is what entrepreneurs do. Second, bashing BA is not exactly just about Branson. The airline's quality of service has been on the skids for years. I fly Virgin regularly and it is miles better than BA.

To hell with the knockers -- Go for it Branson!

Posted by Johnathan Pearce on September 29, 2004

He also made a genuine difference (and real money, unlike pretty much everyone else) in the mobile phone market.

And - as touched on in Patrick's tilty-train articles below - the train services rely on public subsidy because of Railtrack's inability to fulfil its contract with Virgin, not because Virgin Trains is incapable of running a railway (it actually makes a surprisingly good job of it, given the extent to which Notwork Rail makes its life near-impossible).

Posted by john b on September 29, 2004

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