Billionaire Richard Branson readies to travel to space
Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson will board Virgin Galactic’s next flight to space.
In a statement, Virgin Galactic says the Unity 22 mission will be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including company founder Branson.
Branson will be testing the private astronaut experience of the space flight, it states.
The British businessman joins other tech billionaires, including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who have planned missions to space. Bezos, along with his brother Mark, will travel to space on the first crewed space flight from his company Blue Origin on 20 July.
Virgin Galactic says the next rocket-powered test flight to space will be on 11 July, pending weather and technical checks.
The July mission follows the company’s space flight in May, and the Unity 22 mission will focus on cabin and customer experience objectives, says the statement.
It will use Branson’s observations from his flight training and space flight experience to enhance the journey for all future astronaut customers.
The company is planning two additional test flights before it expects to commence commercial service in 2022.
Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, says: “Our next flight – the 22nd flight test for VSS Unity and our first fully-crewed flight test – is a testament to the dedication and technical brilliance of our entire team, and I’d like to extend a special thank you to our pilots and mission specialists, each of whom will be performing important work.
“Tapping into Sir Richard’s expertise and long history of creating amazing customer experiences will be invaluable as we work to open the wonder of space travel and create awe-inspiring journeys for our customers.”
Branson comments: “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.
“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. As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”
Virgin Galactic will share a global live stream of the spaceflight, and audiences from around the world are invited to participate virtually in the Unity 22 test flight.
The live stream will be available to watch on Virgin Galactic and will be simulcast on the Virgin Galactic Twitter, YouTube and Facebook channels. It is expected to begin at 7am MDT / 9am EDT on the day of the flight.