Space tourism firm Virgin Galactic will fly its founder Richard Branson on its next test flight slated for July 11th, the company confirmed Thursday. Branson’s flight date will come before rival Jeff Bezos is expected to fly in his own space tourism rocket on July 20th.
Branson, 70, wasn’t set to fly Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spaceplane for another two tests — until Thursday, when the company announced he’d fly on July 11th “testing the private astronaut experience” alongside four mission specialists and two pilots.
“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 @VirginGalatic spaceflight,” Branson tweeted.
The mission, dubbed Unity 22, will mark Virgin Galactic’s fourth crewed test flight of VSS Unity, a spaceplane that launches from a carrier aircraft mid-air and ascends toward the edge of space to give passengers a few minutes of weightlessness. It 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 company said in a statement.
Blue Origin announced last month that Bezos, its founder, will be on board its first crewed mission of New Shepard, a suborbital rocket designed to send passengers to the same heights as VSS Unity for a few minutes of weightlessness.
Virgin Galactic’s announcement comes on the same day Blue Origin announced the fourth crew member for its first first crewed New Shepard flight — Wally Funk, a legendary aviator who also holds a ticket for Virgin’s VSS Unity.