Virgin Galactic founder could fly to the edge of space over the July 4 weekend – two weeks before Amazon CEO launches with Blue Origin, report claims 

By Sam Tonkin

  • Sir Richard Branson could go to space over July 4 weekend, according to report
  • Virgin Galactic founder would fly on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane
  • It would see him beat his billionaire rival, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, by two weeks
  • Bezos said on Monday he and his brother would fly with Blue Origin on July 20

It looked like Jeff Bezos was on the verge of winning the billionaire space race by revealing plans to fly to space ahead of rivals Elon Muskand Sir Richard Branson.

But it appears the Virgin Galactic founder might still beat the Amazon CEO to the punch, with a report claiming he plans to make a suborbital flight two weeks before Bezos and his brother.

But it appears the Virgin Galactic founder might still beat the Amazon CEO to the punch, with a report claiming he plans to make a suborbital flight two weeks before Bezos and his brother.

If true, it would see Branson, 70, fly to space on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the July 4 weekend, while 57-year-old Bezos would have to wait until July 20 for his launch aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft.

The new space race: Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson (pictured) could beat Jeff Bezos to space by flying on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the July 4 weekend, according to a report, two weeks before the Amazon CEO launches with Blue Origin on July 20
The new space race: Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson (pictured) could beat Jeff Bezos to space by flying on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the July 4 weekend, according to a report, two weeks before the Amazon CEO launches with Blue Origin on July 20 
Ready to launch: Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos inspects New Shepard's West Texas launch facility. One seat on the flight, scheduled for July 20, is being auctioned to the highest bidder
Ready to launch: Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos inspects New Shepard’s West Texas launch facility. One seat on the flight, scheduled for July 20, is being auctioned to the highest bidder 

TIMELINE: VSS UNITY LAUNCHES 

May 2021: Sir Richard Branson’s VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane successfully launches from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

It powered to a height of 55 miles (89km) and then glided back down to Earth.

The test flight was the first with the pilots flying solo.

Summer 2021: A second test flight is due to take place with a full load to test the passenger cabin.

It is set to include the pilots plus four as yet unnamed Virgin Galactic employees. However, could Branson now be among them?

A third test flight is also planned and this is when the Virgin Galactic founder had been expected to gain his commercial astronaut wings.

It is designed to showcase the astronaut experience through the eyes of the company founder.

September 2021: First revenue generation flight with the Italian Air Force to test passenger and payload.

This flight will take both astronauts and scientific equipment to the edge of space on VSS Unity. 

Early 2022: The start of full commercial flights from Spaceport America.

The dozens of Future Astronauts, who paid to fly to the edge of space, will begin earning their astronaut wings. https://bf73f6a05f8730fa69216ad596849d9b.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

A source told Parabolic Arc that Virgin Galactic began planning Branson’s flight before Monday’s announcement that Jeff and Mark Bezos would launch to the edge of space with the winner of a multi-million pound auction.

However, it’s clear there is an intense rivalry among the three major private players now dominating the space tourism and exploration sector.

Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Bezos, Branson and Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each to win the ‘new space race’.

The trio of entrepreneurs have pumped billions of dollars into their respective start-ups with the aim of creating cheap, commercialised space travel.

But while Musk has talked about ‘dying on Mars’, and Bezos also has ambitions for deep space travel, Branson’s aim is to develop reusable ‘space planes’ to take tourists on short suborbital trips.

Celebrities that have already nabbed the exclusive tickets include singer Katy Perry, actor Tom Hanks and Justin Bieber.

When Bezos announced he would be on the first human flight launched by his space company Blue Origin – planned to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – Branson was quick to congratulate his rival.

He called it ‘extraordinary’ how their two firms were ‘opening up access to space’.

However, he perhaps hinted at his reported July 4 plans when he ended the tweet: ‘Watch this space…’

The flight is contingent upon Virgin Galactic obtaining an operator’s license from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

Musk has remained silent about Bezos’ announcement and Branson’s reported flight.

His SpaceX company has already sent astronauts to the International Space Station and is launching the world’s first civilian crew into orbit on September 15, but Musk has long-term plans to establish a human colony on Mars. 

The South African-born entrepreneur, 49, has said he would like to go into space but not when it might happen.

Ride: Branson, 70, would fly to space on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane (pictured)
Ride: Branson, 70, would fly to space on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane (pictured) 
Clue? After Bezos announced his plan to fly to space with his brother on July 20, Branson congratulated his rival by saying their two firms were 'opening up access to space'. However, he perhaps hinted at his reported July 4 flight when he ended the tweet: 'Watch this space…'
Clue? After Bezos announced his plan to fly to space with his brother on July 20, Branson congratulated his rival by saying their two firms were ‘opening up access to space’. However, he perhaps hinted at his reported July 4 flight when he ended the tweet: ‘Watch this space…’

Via DailyMail.com

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