Virgin Galactic announced on Thursday that the space company will on July 11 convey founder Sir Richard Branson to space ahead of Jeff Bezos.
Branson by this announcement aims to make to take the buzz around Bezos’ space trip away. Jeff Bezos aims to travel to space with his brother Mark and an 82 year old aviator Wally Funk.
“After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good,” Branson said in a statement. “I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”
This will be Virgin Galactic’s fourth test spaceflight to date and its first mission with a team of four ready, as the organization launches its latest spaceflight with only two pilots on May 22.
Virgin Galactic shares popped 17% during after hours trading up from Thursday’s $43.19.
Branson will be travelling with three Virgin Galactic aviators namely, Chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, and government affairs VP Sirisha Bandla. Virgin Galactic pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci will fly the company’s VSS Unity spacecraft.
Virgin Galactic says it will livestream the flight interestingly across Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
The commercial space era has begun and depending on the outcome of the these flights, we could start seeing even more and more people with deep pockets of course start showing an interest in going to space.
Analysts believe that it could cost as much as $200,000 per flight when these services fully begin operations.
The United States still leads the world in the commercial space travel space. According to an MIT review publication, The rivalry between the US and China, whose space program has surged over the last two decades, is what most people mean when they refer to the 21st-century’s space race. China is set to build a new space station later this year and will likely attempt to send its taikonauts to the moon before the decade ends. But these big-picture projects represent just one aspect of the country’s space ambitions. Increasingly, the focus is now on the commercial space industry as well. The nation’s growing private space business is less focused on bringing prestige and glory to the nation and more concerned with reducing the cost of spaceflight, increasing its international influence—and making money.
That said, the private Chinese space companies are yet to announce dates for test flights with tourists. One country that is largely missing from the picture and could have been at the forefront perhaps is Russia.
July would mark a huge milestone for space tourism if all goes well with both the Branson and Bezos plans.