Virgin Galactic flight: Everything you need to know about Richard Branson's space venture

·Assistant News Editor
·3-min read

The billionaire battle for space supremacy will launch into a new stratosphere this weekend as Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson shoots for the stars.

The 70-year-old announced last week he would be on board his company's next rocket-powered test flight as it works to bring space travel to the consumer. 

"It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality," Branson wrote in a blog post.

"As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, 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."

Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson and the crew who will be on board Sunday's test flight pictured.
Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson (third from the right) and the crew who will be on board Sunday's test flight. Source: Virgin Galactic

According to a statement by the company, it will be the 22nd flight test for VSS Unity and the Company’s fourth crewed spaceflight.

However for the first time, Virgin Galactic will share a global livestream of the event.

When will the Virgin launch happen?

The flight is scheduled to happen on the morning of Sunday July 11 with a live stream of the launch to start in the morning, US time. 

"A new space age is coming. Watch Virgin Galactic spaceflight Unity 22 LIVE on July 11 at 6 am PT/9 am ET," the company says on its website.

That works out to be 11pm AEST on Sunday July 11.

If you just can't wait, the company has a clock counting down the seconds and minutes until launch. The same website offers you the chance to "become and astronaut". You know, if you're sick of lockdown. 

What will the Virgin Galactic flight do?

The company paints a picture of what its commercial astronauts can expect when the service hits the market. 

On Sunday, the VSS Unity and its mothership VMS Eve will climb together to an altitude of nearly 50,000 feet before the spaceship is released and its rocket ignites. That will send the six crew members flying at "a little over Mach 3" to approximately 300,000 feet (or roughly 88 kilometres) above Earth.

"The cabin becomes your playground to unbuckle and experience weightlessness," the Virgin Galactic website says.

"The planet peers back at you through the ship’s 17 windows as you see home for the first time. 16 cameras throughout the cabin record every moment of the experience in HD."

Branson says he will be "evaluating the customer spaceflight experience". 

After that important market research, the craft will prepare for re-entry and a safe landing. Well that's the plan anyway.

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity.
Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity during a test flight in 2018. Source: Getty

Where can I watch the Virgin Galactic flight? 

The livestream will be available to watch on Virgin Galactic.com and will be simulcast on the Virgin Galactic Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook channels.

Why now?

Because Jeff Bezos will do it a couple of weeks later.

Mr Branson swears that's not the reason but one suspects he is happy to beat his fellow billionaire into space. 

The news of Branson's flight came just hours after the Amazon founder's own space venture, named Blue Origin, announced that Bezos would be accompanied into space on July 20.

Bezos chose July 20 as his West Texas launch date – the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

He assigned himself to the flight just a month ago, the final stretch in a years-long race to space between the two mega rich rocket lovers. 

Blue Origin launches its New Shepard rocket from the ground, with its capsule soaring to about 106 kilometres above the Earth's surface. 

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