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Virgin Galactic unveils space suits for its passengers

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Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson in a personalised royal blue suit he plans to wear during his company's inaugural flight.

Yonkers, New York 

THE date for the world's first commercial space flight is not even confirmed yet, but future passengers' Star Trek-like outfits are ready and waiting.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson on Wednesday introduced the custom suits that will be worn by the first private astronauts.

US sportswear designer Under Armour "worked day and night for about two years on this project" said Mr Branson, who himself served as a model at the presentation at a skydiving simulator near New York.

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The 69-year-old British billionaire donned the personalised royal blue suit that he plans to wear during his company's inaugural flight - sometime in 2020.

"Spacesuits are a part of the iconography of the first space age. Our visual impressions of human spaceflight and what astronauts wear are inextricably linked," he said.

"I love the way the spacewear looks and I love the way it feels. I also love the fact that the next time I put it on, I will be on my way to space."

Under Armour president Kevin Plank said the suits' creators approached the design the same way they would think about clothing for extreme sports.

The material for the suits, undergarments and boots were chosen for their ability to aid in the body's temperature and moisture regulation.

A transparent interior pocket was added so space-exploring customers can keep pictures of their loved ones "literally... close to the heart", according to a statement from Virgin Galactic.

And they are designed so wearers can fit perfectly into the spacecraft's seats.

Every space tourist will get their own custom suit that they can take home with them back on Earth, complete with a label of their name and their country's flag.

"To be able to touch the suit is equivalent to touching the spacecraft for the first time," said Briton Trevor Beattie, one of some 600 clients already signed up for Virgin Galactic's first flights.

The company plans to offer weightless flights to six passengers at a time, at US$250,000 a ticket for the first customers.

The client-astronauts will be able to float around the ship's cabin and look out of portholes to see the curvature of Earth, all while surrounded by the blackness of space.

The Virgin Galactic suits were unveiled in the wake of Nasa's presentation of new uniform prototypes for "real" American astronauts, who are set to return to the Moon in 2024. AFP