NEW YORK - NBC is planning a competition show with a grand prize that's out of this world: a ride into space.
The network said Thursday it is teaming with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and veteran TV producer Mark Burnett on "Space Race," a competition where the winner gets a ride on the space liner that is expected to begin commercial flights sometime next year.
NBC offered no estimate on when "Space Race" would air.
"The term `trip of a lifetime' has for once been delivered on," said Paul Telegdy, NBC's president of alternative and late-night programming. "This will be a remarkable experience for anyone who has looked at the night's sky and dared to dream of space flight."
Virgin has been testing its rocket-powered space vehicle this year, with pilots reaching a height of 69,000 feet (21,000 meters) on a Sept. 5 flight that landed in the Mojave Desert near Virgin Galactic's facility there. Virgin has said the goal is to begin commercial flights next year, with Branson and his family taking the first ride.
Virgin has already collected $80 million in deposits from 640 people interested in experiencing the weightlessness of space.
A TV show could be great publicity for Branson's company. Competitors, such as billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX, are also working to make commercial spaceflight a reality.
Burnett, the producer behind "The Voice" and "Survivor," said he has wanted for 10 years to make a show with the goal of letting an average person experience looking down on Earth from the black sky of space.
He wasn't immediately available Thursday to talk about how the show will be structured. He has made the finales of "Survivor" and "The Voice" live television events, and it is unsure whether a winner's ride on "Space Race" could be televised live. NBC and other broadcast networks have been pushing for more live "events" that can become sensations on social media.
He promised, though, that "viewers at home will have a first-class seat."