Billionaire Richard Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, has confirmed that it will be flying its founder to space on its next test flight, on July 11.
In the current space race for billionaires, it’s a move that puts Branson ahead of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose own space startup, Blue Origin, will be launching Bezos into space on July 20.
Branson tweeted about the launch, writing, “I’ve always been a dreamer. My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars. On July 11, it’s time to turn that dream into a reality aboard the next @VirginGalactic spaceflight.”
He also shared a preview video of the voyage, which introduces the crew of the Unity22, which Branson will fly aboard on his journey.
I’ve always been a dreamer. My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars. On July 11, it’s time to turn that dream into a reality aboard the next @VirginGalactic spaceflight https://t.co/x0ksfnuEQ3 #Unity22 pic.twitter.com/GWskcMSXyA
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 1, 2021
Unity has been under development in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, according to the BBC. The Unity rocket plane can reach up to 295,000 feet (or 55 miles) in altitude. At that height, passengers can clearly see the curve of the Earth and experience weightlessness.
In comparison, Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch on July 20 (the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing), already recorded a flight that reached nearly 66 miles in altitude.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has already been to the International Space Station and has plans to send a civilian crew to space in September, according to Reuters.
At the end of his Twitter video, Branson teased an announcement to come following his spaceflight. He said it was “very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut.” It will likely tie into the billionaire’s plans to make suborbital flights into space available to the public. Estimates for ticket prices go as high as $250,000.
Branson told the BBC he hopes to expand the possibility of space travel to more than just astronauts.
“I truly believe that space belongs to all of us. After 17 years of research, engineering and innovation, the new commercial space industry is poised to open the Universe to humankind and change the world for good,” Branson said. “It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality.”
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