Virgin Galactic announced on Thursday that the space tourism company will try to launch its next test flight into space on July 11, carrying founder Sir Richard Branson.
Branson aims beat up fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space, since the latter plans to launch with its own company Blue Origin on July 20th.
“After more than 16 years of research, engineering and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the forefront of a new commercial space industry, which should open up space for humanity and change the world forever,” Branson said in a statement. “I am honored to help validate the journey our future astronauts will take and provide the unique user experience that people expect from Virgin.”
Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson demonstrated a space clothing system, designed for Virgin Galactic astronauts, at an event on October 16, 2019 in Yonkers, New York.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images
This will be Virgin Galactic’s fourth test space flight to date and the first mission with a four-man crew, as the company launched its latest space flight, on May 22, with just two pilots.
Shares of Virgin Galactic jumped more than 20% during trading outside of business hours, compared to the end of Thursday with $ 43.19.
Along with Branson, there will be three Virgin Galactic mission experts: chief astronaut Beth Moses, chief operations engineer Colin Bennett, and Deputy Prime Minister Sirisha Bandla. Virgin Galactic pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci will fly the company’s VSS Unity spacecraft.
Virgin Galactic said it will broadcast the space flight live for the first time, a feed that will be available on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
The company announced on June 25 that it had been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration license to fly passengers on future space flights, and Virgin is aiming for early 2022 to start flying paying passengers.
Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 to build a space tourism business.
The company’s spacecraft was launched from an aircraft carrier before accelerating to more than three times the speed of sound. The spacecraft then spends a few minutes in microgravity above 80 kilometers above sea level – the limit that the US officially recognizes as space – before slowly turning and sliding back to Earth to land on the runway.
Virgin Galactic competes only with Bezos ’blue origins in the area of suborbital space tourism, as SpaceX’s Elona Muska transports passengers on longer journeys into orbit, like the International Space Station.
In June, Bezos announced that he would fly Blue Origin’s first passenger flight of his New Shepard rocket. Bezos is scheduled to launch on July 20, and will fly along with his brother winner of a $ 28 million public auction and legendary space pioneer Wally Funk.