Game on—Sir Richard Branson will attempt to go to space on July 11

Enlarge / Sir Richard Branson usually takes off his button-entrance shirt to don a T-shirt that claims “Long run Astronaut Schooling Software” even though Air and Area Museum Director Ellen Stofan appears to be like on. The tee is offered to him by Virgin Galactic Take a look at Pilot Mark “Forger” Stucky.

On Thursday afternoon, Virgin Galactic explained its founder, British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, will try to go to place on July 11.

Dubbed the “Unity 22” mission, this flight on the VSS Unity spacecraft will have a full crew of two pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, and four mission specialists, which includes Branson. “Constructing on the achievements of the company’s most new spaceflight in Could, Unity 22 will aim on cabin and buyer experience targets,” the company reported in a statement.

Branson said:

I truly think that room belongs to all of us… After much more than 16 decades of analysis, engineering, and tests, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new industrial area market, which is established to open house to humankind and alter the planet for excellent. It truly is a single factor to have a dream of making room much more available to all it really is yet another for an outstanding crew to collectively switch that desire into actuality. As component of a extraordinary crew of mission specialists, I’m honored to support validate the journey.

The timing of this flight is significant, because a July 11 mission would let Branson to beat Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to house. Bezos has stated he will fly on the initial human flight of the New Shepard spacecraft, formulated and examined by his Blue Origin rocket business. That mission is established for July 20.

Thursday experienced been a great day for Bezos and Blue Origin, as the firm gained plaudits from throughout the space industry for inviting Wally Funk to be part of Bezos on the New Shepard flight. Funk, 82, was member of the privately funded “Mercury 13” software for women who finally were not selected to go into room in the 1960s. She is found as another person who actually, truly justifies to go to place.

But Virgin Galactic’s announcement will upstage this second for Bezos, as it furthers the “struggle of the billionaires” to see who will go into space first.

Branson is evidently keen to be very first, and Virgin Galactic has adjusted its flight strategies to accommodate this journey. At first, the firm’s program subsequent identified as for a examination flight with 4 personnel in the passenger cabin. That examination was then to have been followed by Branson’s mission.

Questions will be requested about whether Branson and Virgin Galactic are rushing matters. For instance, responding to the information Thursday afternoon, former flight director and space shuttle method manager Wayne Hale tweeted the pursuing: “Communicate about routine strain! Hope no one cuts any corners.”

Having said that, it is plausible that Virgin Galactic’s flight on Could 22 went nicely, and therefore the VSS Unity spacecraft and its carrier aircraft could be prepared once more by early July. Only a minor far more than two months passed involving the first (December 13, 2018) and next (February 22, 2019) spaceflights of VSS Unity. This time, the turnaround would be about 1.5 months.

If Richard Branson will get to house prior to July 20, as now appears possible, he will have beaten Jeff Bezos equally in launching cargo to orbit—with his Virgin Orbit rocket company—as very well as individually traveling to area, irrespective of starting off four many years later and paying out a fraction of the income.

Theoretically, Bezos may argue that Branson isn’t really essentially likely to place. There is some dispute in the space community about the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere and the cosmos. For a extensive time, it was agreed that this boundary began as 100 km, acknowledged as the Kármán line. But in recent decades, there has been some settlement that room starts decreased, and attitudes show up to be altering. Branson is very likely to fly above 80 km in VSS Unity, while New Shepard will choose Bezos comfortably over 100 km before coming again down to Earth.

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