The Virgin Galactic founder hopes to edge out, by nine days, Blue Origin’s first flight with a crew aboard.
The founder of the Virgin Group revealed his plan in a video on Twitter and teased viewers to “watch this space” for an announcement that will “give more people the chance to become astronauts” when he returns from the trip.
Richard Branson will beat Jeff Bezos.
Billionaire Sir Richard Branson has announced his plan to reach space nine days before Amazon boss Jeff Bezos by taking part in a test flight for his company Virgin Galactic.
In a video posted on Twitter, the Virgin Group founder introduced himself as “Astronaut 001” and said he would be “evaluating the customer space flight experience” during the test, beginning on July 11, ahead of Mr. Bezos’s maiden voyage on 20 July.
The Unity 22 mission will be the company’s first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin but will be the 22nd flight test for the rocket plane VSS Unity.
Taking off from a spaceport in New Mexico, the crew will be evaluating the “cabin environment, seat comfort, the weightless experience and the views of Earth that the spaceship delivers” in the commercial cabin.
The company said it also wants to demonstrate the conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments.
The business tycoon, estimated to be worth around $5.5bn (£3.9bn), also teased potential customers that an “exciting” announcement will be made when he returns from the trip.
“When we return, I will announce something fascinating to give more people the chance to become astronauts because space does belong to us all, so watch this space,”
Sir Richard Branson’s dream come true.
On Wednesday, Branson had declined to say when he would travel because of restrictions placed on him by his publicly-traded company. But he stressed he was healthy and fit to fly as soon as his engineers give him the go-ahead. He will turn 71 a week after the scheduled launch.
Virgin Galactic was given the go-ahead to fly paying customers to space after its license was updated by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this month.
The Amazon chief executive is set to join his brother, an 82-year-old pilot, and an anonymous bidder, who has paid $28m (£19.8m) to be on board the rocket’s first trip on 20 July – the 52nd anniversary of the moon landings.
In a recent Instagram video Bezos, who acquired the Washington Post in 2013 for $250m, said he had dreamed of space travel since he was five.
It is not clear when Blue Origin will be open for commercial business, but ticket sales and price lists are due to be available soon.
The Bottom Line
Amazon has not commented on speculation that its 57-year-old founder may have been asked to step back from his chief executive role to become executive chairman of the company, which has a market value of $1.7tn, before heading to space. He is being replaced by Andy Jassy, the head of its successful cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, who formally takes over as CEO on Monday.
In April, Nasa awarded Musk’s SpaceX the lucrative and highly sought-after contract to build the lunar lander that will spearhead its ambitious Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the moon for the first time final Apollo mission in 1972.