Richard Branson aims to fly to space before Jeff Bezos, Virgin Galactic confirms

Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company, will fly Richard Branson, its founder on its next test flight scheduled for July 11, according to the company. Bransons new flight date will be before Jeff Bezos, who is expected to fly in his space tourism rocket on July 20, setting up a symbolic showdown between the two billionaires trying to validate their space tourism rockets.Branson, 70 years old, was not scheduled to fly on Virgin Galactics VSS Unity spaceplane until Thursday. The company announced that Branson would fly with four mission specialists, two pilots, and the private astronaut experience on July 11. Branson tweeted, "I've always been a dreamer." My mom taught me to never lose heart and to aim for the stars. It's time to make that dream a reality aboard Virgin Galactic's next spaceflight on July 11.I've always dreamed big. My mom taught me to never lose heart and to aim for the stars. It's time to make that dream a reality on the next @VirginGalactic Spaceflight #Unity22 Richard Branson, @richardbranson July 1, 2021Unity 22 will be Virgin Galactic's fourth crewed flight of VSS Unity. This spaceplane, which launches from a carrier aircraft midair, ascends towards the edge of space for a few seconds of weightlessness, is launched from an aircraft carrier. The company stated that the flight will be the first to transport a full crew, consisting of two pilots and four mission experts.Unity can carry six passengers and up to two pilots. It has been tested 22 different times. The most recent test was conducted at Virgin Galactic's luxurious Spaceport America base in New Mexico. Before Virgin Galactic's first revenue-generating mission for Italy Air Force, three more test flights will be conducted this year including Bransons. There are 600 confirmed reservations from paying customers for future space flights. Each ticket costs around $250,000.After the flight, something very exciting will be revealedIn a tweet, Branson teased that he would make another announcement following his July 11th flight. He said that he would announce something exciting when we return. Space is ours and everyone can become an astronaut. Keep an eye out for this space.Blue Origin announced last month that Bezos (its founder) will be aboard its first crewed mission to New Shepard. This suborbital rocket is designed to transport passengers to the same heights of VSS Unity to experience weightlessness for a few seconds. The rocket launches vertically out of the remote spaceport at Van Horn, Texas. New Shepard flew 15 times without crews, the last uncrewed flight being an astronaut training exercise.Virgin Galactics' announcement came on the same day that Blue Origin announced Wally Funk as the fourth crew member of its first crewed New Shepard flight. Funk is a legendary aviator and also holds a ticket to Virgins VSS Unity. Bezos' brother Mark and the winner of a $28million auction for a New Shepard flight seat will also be aboard that July 20th mission. Blue Origin has not yet announced the price of future New Shepard flights, unlike Virgin Galactic.July 11th, pending weather and tech checks.Virgin Galactic was granted approval by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly space customers last Wednesday as an amendment to its commercial space transport operator license. This marks the first time that the FAA has licensed a spaceline to carry customers. According to someone familiar with the process, Blue Origin does not yet have the FAA approval to fly customers in advance of its July 20th flight. However, they are close to getting it.Parabolic Arc, a space blogger, was the first one to report on a faster timeline for Bransons flight. Virgin Galactic spokespersons had not confirmed or denied the report's existence until Thursday. According to a company spokesperson, Bransons July 11th flight is dependent on weather and tech checks.