Branson's Virgin Atlantic airline has signed a technology licensing deal with the US company behind SpaceShipOne, which in June became the first private manned craft to travel to space, he told a press conference in London on Monday. 

Virgin has signed an agreement worth $25 million with Mojave Aerospace Ventures, which owns the technology behind the private space vessel. 

Would-be space tourists would pay from $207,000 for a flight, receiving three days' flight training beforehand. 

Up to 3000 astronauts could fly into space over a five-year period, predicted Branson, who as well as being a hugely rich tycoon is also an incorrigible publicity-seeker with a flair for adventure. 

Bringing dreams alive

"We hope to create thousands of astronauts over the next few years and bring alive their dream of seeing the majestic beauty of our planet from above, the stars in all their glory and the amazing sensation of weightlessness," he said. 

"The development will also allow every country in the world to
have their own astronauts rather than the privileged few." 

Branson was speaking alongside US aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, who designed and built SpaceShipOne. 

That craft shot into the history books in June when it became
the first non-government manned spaceship to travel beyond the 100km boundary of space and back again.