Billionaire Sir Richard Branson will fly into space on a Virgin Galactic rocket ship early next year, the space tourism company he founded says, adding that it would raise new funds with a share offering.

Branson’s trip to space hinges on the success of two upcoming test flight programs, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc said, with the first powered spaceflight scheduled for this fall from Spaceport America.

The company competes with billionaire-backed ventures such as Blue Origin that are vying to usher in a new era of space tourism, racing to be the first to offer sub-orbital flights to civilian space travellers.

Virgin Galactic offers zero-gravity experiences to customers with its centrepiece SpaceShipTwo plane and has long-term point-to-point travel plans to quickly transport passengers from city to city at near-space altitudes.

Earlier in June, Virgin Galactic had signed an agreement with NASA to develop a program to promote private missions to the International Space Station.

AAP

Want more? Listen to this best bit from Jonesy & Amanda!