Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson aims to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days.
On Thursday evening, Branson’s company announced that its next test flight will be on July 11 and that its founder will be amongst the six people on board. The winged rocket ship is set to soar from New Mexico and shall be the first carrying a full crew of company employees. For Virgin Galactic, it shall be the fourth trip to space.
The news came hours after Bezos’ Blue Origin stated that Bezos would be accompanied into space on July 20 by a female aerospace pioneer who has been waiting for 60 years to rocket away.
Bezos selected July 20 as his West Texas launch date, which marks the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. He assigned himself to the flight just before a month, after the final stretch in a years-long race to space between the two wealthy racketeers.
Amazon’s founder will be on Blue Origin’s debut launch with people on board and shall be accompanied by his brother, who is the winner of a $28 million charity auction, and Wally Funk, one of the last surviving members of the Mercury who has also been chosen as the honored guest.
On Wednesday, Branson declined to reveal when he would ride into space because of certain restrictions that were placed on him by his publicly traded company. However, he stressed that he was fit and healthy to fly as soon as his engineers give him the go! He announced on Twitter that he has always been a dreamer and that his mother taught him tonnever give up and to reach for the stars. On July 11, it’s time to turn that dream into a reality!
Virgin Galactic has launched its rocket ship from an aircraft and reached an altitude of around 55 miles, 88 kilometers. Blue Origin has launched its New Shepard rocket from the ground, with its capsule soaring to about 66 miles, 106 kilometers. Both the heights are considered to be the edge of space and by comparison, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched its capsules, both crew and cargo into orbit around the Earth.
The three private companies plan to take the paying customers into space and SpaceX shall be the first with a private flight coming up in September.
Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic’s flights last for about 10 minutes with almost three minutes of weightlessness. However, the returns are different, with Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane gliding to land on a runway the same as NASA’s old space shuttles and Blue Origin’s automated capsules parachuting to the desert floor, similar to NASA’s Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo capsules.
Virgin Galactic has over 600 reservations in the pipeline and the company will begin accepting more following the upcoming flight with Branson. It plans 3 more test flights before taking up
the customers. Blue Origin is yet to announce the ticket prices.