Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson will travel to the edge of space on Virgin Galactic’s test flight today, July 11. A successful flight by Branson aboard Virgin’s VSS Unity spaceplane would mark a key milestone in a race to usher in a new era of private commercial space travel. It would also mean that the billionaire would travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere ahead of Jeff Bezos, the founder of rival space tourism venture Blue Origin. The Amazon co-founder is slated to fly to space on July 20 along with his brother, Mark, trailblazing female pilot Wally Funk and a so-far unidentified person, who plunked down $28 million to join the suborbital joyride. Bezos has also wished Branson and ‘the whole team a successful and safe flight’ in a post on Instagram.
Meanwhile, space enthusiasts can live stream the event today at 6:30 PM IST on Virgin Galactic’s Twitter handle and YouTube. Fans can also watch the stream in the embedded link below.
Along with Branson, three of his colleagues would join the test flight. This includes Beth Moses, who holds the title of Chief Astronaut Instructor at Virgin Galactic and will handle the training for all of the company’s future customers. The company’s lead operations engineer Colin Bennett and vice president of government affairs and research Sirisha Bandla will also be onboard. The other two members of the Unity 22 space flight include pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci. The company says that Branson’s job will be to use his “observations from his flight training and spaceflight experience to enhance the journey for all future astronaut customers." Overall, the whole crew will evaluate the cabin experience, including seat comfort and the weightless experience. The test flight will be used to demonstrate conditions for future flights. The twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity will take off from New Mexico.