Richard Branson estimates he'll take his first flight to space "within 6 months"

Richard Branson talks "historic" space launch

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said Thursday he estimates he will take his first flight to space within the next six months. "I'm itching to go," he said.

Branson spoke to CBSN from California's Mojave Desert after Virgin Galactic got one step closer to sending tourists to space. Its rocket plane, SpaceShipTwo, reached the edge of space Thursday for the first time, climbing to an altitude of 51.4 miles during a flight carrying test pilots. 

The Air Force considers 50 miles up as the point at which space begins, CBS News space consultant William Harwood reported.

"Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached space," Branson said earlier in a statement.

Branson told CBSN that Virgin Galactic will now carry out two or three more similar test flights before moving "the whole operation" to a space port in New Mexico. "Then I plan to go up into space," he said, noting he looks forward to that next year and is "very, very excited."

After that, he said, they'll start putting into space "the hundreds of astronauts" who have signed up for the journey. 

Ultimately, the company aims to carry paying passengers on its spaceship, which is designed to carry six people in addition to two pilots. 

But will it ever be accessible to people like buying an economy class airline ticket? "It's very similar to the 1920s with commercial flights across the Atlantic. It cost a very similar price to what we're spending today to put people into space," he said.

"But over the years, the price of crossing the Atlantic came down and down and down, and if we can get enough spaceships built and flying, I'm really hopeful that a lot of people watching your program one day will be able to go to space," he said. 

"And that's our aim — to be able to make it safe and affordable for as many people as possible, and today was a very important milestone along that road," he added.