Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson has been vying with Elon Musk and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to become the first billionaire to take the first tourists beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
It was in February of this year that Musk was the first to assure that his Company, SpaceX, was planning to launch its first space tourism mission by the fourth quarter of 2021. However, Bezos did not want to be left behind and later announced that his Company, Blue Origin, had a manned flight to the edge of space scheduled for July 20.
The above indicated that the Amazon CEO could defeat Musk and be the first to realize the idea of tourist trips to outer space, but they did not count on another opponent from the United Kingdom, to achieve victory; we are talking about Sir Richard Branson. Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s spacecraft company, is all set to carry passengers into space on its spaceplane VSS Unity for the first time later this month.
The flight window for the next rocket-powered test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity opens July 11, depending on the weather and technical readiness. The Unity 22 mission will be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, who will be testing the private astronaut experience.
The announcement of the SpaceShipTwo Unity launch comes on the heels of the craft’s first flight from Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America facility in New Mexico and the certification of the Company by the US FAA to carry passengers. It will be the 22nd flight test for VSS Unity and the Company’s fourth crewed spaceflight.
Building on the success of the Company’s most recent spaceflight in May, Unity 22 will gather data about spacecraft, the cabin environment, seat comfort, the weightless experience, and the views of Earth that the spaceship delivers – all to ensure every moment of the astronaut’s journey maximizes the wonder and awe created by space travel.
The pilots for this mission are Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci flying VSS Unity, and CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer, flying VMS Eve mothership, which will carry Unity Operation aloft before releasing it to ascend under its own power.
“I truly believe that space belongs to all of us. After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good,” said Sir Richard Branson.
The livestream will be available to watch on Virgin Galactic.com and will be simulcast on the Virgin Galactic Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook channels. It is expected to begin at 7:00 am MDT / 9:00 am EDT on the day of the flight. Two additional test flights are planned before the Company expects to commence commercial service in 2022.