Branson coming to Newport to announce new project

Billionaire space explorer Sir Richard Branson is coming to Newport Beach next week to announce a new “challenge.”

“The Virgin brand has reached many places — the seven continents of the Earth, up into the jet stream and soon, even into space,” according to a news release. “There is only one frontier left ... "

Branson will give full details Tuesday. Branson has said before that he wants to explore the deepest parts of the world’s oceans, and started Virgin Oceanic to complement the Virgin airlines brands and Virgin Galactic, the space tourism brand.

“Besides discovering new species, charting new trenches and finding treasure, we may even find the lost city of Atlantis,” Branson said in a speech last year.

Another adventurer, Newport Beach businessman Chris Welsh, applied to bring a deep-sea submarine into the harbor earlier this year. It would sit atop a 125-foot catamaran.

At the time, he was looking for a financial backer for his plan to dive to the deepest points of the world’s five oceans and had approached Branson and other potential sponsors.

With the high-tech “flying” submarine and its mother ship already purchased, Welsh has been assembling a team of scientists, engineers and filmmakers.

“It’s pretty captivating to go after it and see if you can get there,” he said, setting his sights to the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, the deepest known point in the world’s oceans.

Graham Hawkes of Hawkes Ocean Technologies, the engineer and designer who built Welsh’s submarine, also built a submersible for Branson.

From his private island in the Caribbean, Branson charters the sub along with its mother ship to people who pay more than $100,000 per week.

In his speech, Branson said his Virgin Galactic customers are also interested in “exploring the oceans’ uncharted waters.”