Virgin chief Richard Branson has come out with a time frame on his plan to launch tourists into space, claiming he and his family would kick off the effort for fare-paying passengers with their blast off scheduled for December 2013.
He also announced that Virgin Galactic, an expansion at his fledgling commercial space company, to include a satellite-launching service that would put pay loads into orbit using a low-cost rocket system.
The British entrepreneur who was speaking at the UK's Farnborough International Airshow, said his adult children, Holly and Sam, would accompany him on board the SpaceShipTwo on its pioneering two-hour voyage into sub-orbital space.
"It'll certainly be the most momentous moment of my life and my children's lives," Branson told CNN. "It'll be very difficult to ever cap it I think. Anyone who has ever been into space says the same thing."
Among the 529 would-be astronauts who have signed up so far for seats aboard the two-hour flights are celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher.
According to Virgin executives, the figure was a milestone as it exceeded the existing number of space veterans, with 600 hundred expected to fly in the first two years of service.
Launched from a carrier vessel known as WhiteKnightTwo, Virgin Galactic's space ship is capable of carrying two pilots and six passengers and is currently undergoing testing in the Mojave Desert in California. However, a replica was displayed at Farnborough