British billionaire Richard Branson said yesterday that rocket-powered space tourism flights by his firm Virgin Galactic would have only a minor impact on climate change.
More than 500 people have already reserved seats — and paid deposits on the US$200,000 ticket price — for a minutes-long suborbital flight on the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) set to begin by the end of this year.
“We have reduced the [carbon emission] cost of somebody going into space from something like two weeks of New York’s electricity supply ... to less than the cost of a economy round-trip from Singapore to London,” Branson told reporters in Singapore.
The founder of the diversified Virgin group was in Singapore to attend a summit organized by the Carbon War Room, an environmental charity organization he founded in 2009.
“New technology can dramatically reduce the carbon output and that is the challenge we have set ourselves,” Branson said.
The SS2’s lightweight carbon-fiber body will also “reduce fuel burn dramatically,” he said.
The SS2 is designed to be launched by a transport plane called White KnightTwo and will be guided by a rocket motor before gliding back to Earth.
Branson said the aviation industry could do more to cut its carbon output and shift to cleaner fuels.
Rising carbon emissions caused by industry, transport and deforestation have been blamed for global warming.
“If you have clean fuels, you got a competitor to the dirty fuels and you could hopefully reduce the cost of the fuel, which means you can reduce the price of the ticket,” he said.
Branson’s Virgin Group and Virgin Green Fund in October last year announced plans to form a US$200 million emerging markets fund with Russia’s Rosnano Capital to invest in innovations and green technologies.
The Carbon War Room, which he founded with other global entrepreneurs, aims to empower industries to find market-based incentives to reduce carbon emissions.