San Francisco, July 2 (IANS) Billionaire Richard Branson is set to fly to space aboard his Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spaceplane on July 11, days before rival Jeff Bezos who is expected to take off in his own space tourism rocket on July 20, the media reported.
Virgin Galactic confirmed Branson’s flight on July 11 alongside four mission specialists and two pilots, the Verge reported on Thursday.
“I’ve always been a dreamer,” Branson said in a tweet on Friday, after the company’s announcement a day earlier.
“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 Virgin Galactic spaceflight,” he added.
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.
Unity is designed to carry up to six passengers and two pilots. The company has some 600 reservations for paying customers on future space flights, with each ticket going for around $250,000, the report said.
Branson, in a video he tweeted, teased an additional announcement after his July 11 flight.
“When we return, I will announce something very exciting to give more people a chance to become astronauts, because space does belong to us all,” he said. “So watch this space.”
Last month, Bezos announced a trip to the edge of space aboard his venture Blue Origin’s first crewed mission of New Shepard on July 20 with his brother Mark and two others — including the winner of a 28 million pound auction.
On July 1, Bezos announced the fourth crew member — Wally Funk, a legendary aviator who also holds a ticket for Virgin’s VSS Unity. Virgin Galactic’s announcement also came on the same day.
Unlike Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin hasn’t announced the ticket price for future New Shepard flights just yet, the Verge report said. Branson’s company has also reportedly received Federal Aviation Administration’s approval to fly space customers, last week, a first for a spaceline. However, Blue Origin doesn’t have the same FAA approval yet, but is getting close to securing it, the report added, citing a person familiar with the process.