After a lifelong desire to fly through space, the galactic Virgin Richard Galans was ready to embark on Sunday aboard his own rocket ship in his boldest, greatest adventure yet.
The thrill-seeking billionaire accompanied five company employees who were also assigned to the test flight at the edge of the upper desert space south of New Mexico.
Branson, once the showman, has dramatically counted the days taken via Twitter. He considered the short round trip as a trusted builder – not only for more than 600 people who already had reservations and waiting in their wings, but also for would-be space tourists willing to shell out a few hundred thousand dollars for a chance in space.
The London-born founder of the Virgin Group, who will turn 71 in a week, would not fly until later this summer. But he transferred himself to an earlier flight after the Blue Origin Jeff Bezos announced plans to fly his own rocket from West Texas into space on July 20.
Virgin Galactic is not expected to start flying customers before next year. Blue Origins has yet to open ticket sales or even announce prices, but last weekend it boasted via Twitter that it would bring customers higher and offer bigger windows.
Unlike SpaceX from Blue Origin and Elon Musk, which launches reusable booster rocket overhead capsules, Virgin Galactic uses a twin-hull aircraft to get its rocket ship overhead. The space plane freed up about 13,400 meters above the ship and then fired its rocket engine firing straight into space. The maximum altitude is about 70 kilometers, with three to four minutes of weightlessness.
The rocket plane – which requires two pilots – slides toward a runway at its base Spaceport America.
Virgin Galactic first arrived in space in 2018 and repeated it again in 2019 and last May, each time with a minimal crew. He received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration last month to begin customer launches.
Dunn reported from Cape Canaveral, Florida.