Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company, announced on Thursday that it would launch its next test space flight on July 11th, 2021, with four crew members at the edge of space, including founder Richard Branson. Branson aims to get ahead of billionaire Jeff Bezos, the founder of the retail giant Amazon.com Inc., who is sure to fly to space on July 20th, 2021. His journey to space will also include his brother, Mark, the fierce and trailblazing female pilot Wally Funk and a so-far unidentified person who spent an amount of around $28m to join the suborbital joyride.
“I am honored to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure that we deliver the unique experience that people have come to expect from Virgin,” Branson said in a video.
Branson further added that Virgin Galactic pledges to stand at the upfront of a new venture in the line of the commercial space industry, which is all set to open space to humankind and change the world for an advanced outlook.
This is the company’s fourth flight and its first mission with a crew that will be made up of four people on board. The most recent test was conducted on May 22 but was only composed of two pilots.
Joining Branson will be three Virgin Galactic mission specialists: Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, Chief Operations Engineer Colin Bennett, and Vice President of Government Affairs SirishaBandla. Virgin Galactic pilots Michael Masucci and Dave Mackay would pilot the company’s VSS Unity spacecraft.
Virgin Galactic will broadcast the space flight live for the first time via Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. On June 25th, the company announced that the Federal Aviation Administration granted them a license to fly with passengers on future space flights. The company plans to begin flying with passengers in early 2022 and already has about 600 reservations that will be sold for prices ranging from $ 200,000 to $ 250,000 each.
After the announcement, Virgin Galactic shares soared more than 20% in after-hours trading this Thursday, advancing a price of $ 43.19 to the company profile. Virgin Galactic ships are launched from a plane and then accelerated to more than three times the speed of sound, achieving microgravity for a few minutes at an altitude of 80 kilometers before turning around and returning to Earth to land at the Spaceport in the US. The company’s airfield is located in the New Mexico desert.