Richard Branson space mission LIVE – Brit billionaire to join full-crew aboard Virgin Galactic flight launch this Sunday

SIR Richard Branson's will fly to space TOMORROW as he sets his sights on firing paying punters into the galaxy this year with Virgin Galactic.

After years of fine-tuning, Branson successfully reached space for the first time on December 13, 2018.

But on July 11, the first flight with a full crew of six onboard will take place – effectively launching Virgin Galactic.

"I've been looking forward to this for 17 years," Branson said in an interview on Tuesday from Spaceport America.

Speaking near the remote town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexic, he added: "Every bit about it is a pinch-me moment."

Read our Richard Branson live blog below for the latest news and updates…

  • Joseph Gamp

    WHEN DID RICHARD BRANSON’S SPACESHIP FIRST LAUNCH?

    After years of fine-tuning, Branson successfully reached space for the first time on December 13, 2018.

    SpaceShipTwo’s Unity plane flew higher than ever before in a test that marked a huge step toward Sir Richard’s goal of firing paying customers into space this year.

    The flight, launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 3.15pm GMT, soared to an altitude of 50 miles above Earth’s surface strapped to a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo.

    It successfully separated from its mother ship around 45 minutes after liftoff and engaged its rocket thrusters, reaching speeds of Mach 2.9.

    SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor burnt for 60 seconds before shutting off, carrying the spaceplane to a top altitude of 51.4 miles, according to Virgin Galactic.

    The feat marked the first time the company had reached the boundary of space as defined by the US Air Force and other US agencies.

  • Joseph Gamp

    RICHARD BRANSON: WHO IS THE BRIT BILLIONAIRE?

    The British billionaire, 70, is a self-made businessman who launched his company Virgin almost 50 years ago.

    He was born in Blackheath, London, in 1950 and started his first venture, Virgin Records, in 1972, which he later sold to EMI in 1992 for £500million.

    The dad-of-two has started up some very lucrative companies along the way, including Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984 and Virgin Trains in 1993.

    He launched Virgin Galactic in 2004, with the hope of offering future trips to space. Sir Richard has also created Virgin Media, Virgin Racing and Virgin Comics.

    In 2007, he was placed in the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list.

  • Joseph Gamp

    BRANSON SET TO TAKE ONE GIANT LEAP AS BILLIONAIRES COMPETE IN NEW SPACE RACE

    Sir Richard Branson will attempt to become the first billionaire to leave Earth as the mega-rich space race heats up.

    The Virgin owner is planning to beat rival billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to the final frontier on Sunday.

    Space tourism has become an obsession of billionaires in recent years with Mr Musk even stating his intention for his company, SpaceX, to build spacecraft which could help humanity colonise Mars.

  • Joseph Gamp

    GRAPHIC: HOW RICHARD BRANSON’S VIRGIN GALACTIC FLIGHT GOT TO THE EDGE OF SPACE IN 2018

    Virgin Galactic launched its first flight to the edge of space, reaching more than 80km above the Earth’s surface.

  • Joseph Gamp

    SPACE TEAM

    SIR Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will fly to space on Sunday, July 11, 2021.

    But who will join him in this thrilling mission? Here’s what we know about the Unity 22 crew.

    Find out more here.

  • Joseph Gamp

    WHEN ARE OTHER BILLIONAIRES PLANNING SPACE TRIPS?

    By joining the flight on July 11, Sir Richard has positioned himself to beat rival billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days.

    Bezos, founder of Amazon, will be on board the suborbital flight of the New Shepard spacecraft of his own private rocket company, Blue Origin, on July 20.

    Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, along with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, are competing head-to-head in the emerging space tourism business.

    Musk has previously said he plans to go to space atop one of his company’s rockets but has not given a timeframe for when he expects to fly.

  • Joseph Gamp

    WHO IS RICHARD BRANSON’S WIFE JOAN TEMPLEMAN?

    Sir Richard Branson, 70, is a billionaire entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Galactic. 

    The business mogul who is getting ready for his upcoming flight to spaceon Sunday, July 11, 2021, has been married for over 30 years- but who is his wife Joan Templeman?

    Joan Templeman was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1948. 

    Her father worked as a ship carpenter to support her and her six siblings.

    She was quite independent at an early age and worked in several jobs including running an antique store.

  • Joseph Gamp

    TIMELINE: HISTORY OF VIRGIN GALACTIC LAUNCHES

    • 2018: On December 13, Branson successfully reached space for the first time, reaching a height of  51.4 miles above the Earth
    • 2019: On February 22, Virgin Galactic reached space for the second time in ten weeks with three people on board, reaching three times the speed of light on the way up
    • 2021:On May 22, VSS marked the first-ever manned space flight from New Mexico
    • 2021: On July 11, the first flight with a full crew of six onboard will take place.

    OUT OF THIS WORLD

    THE sky is no longer the limit for a host of entrepreneurs who are vying to offer the first tourist trip into space.

    With Virgin Galactic's flight to space set to take place on July 11, 2021, commercial space flights are closer than ever- here's what we know about the spaceflight company.

    Read more here.

    • Joseph Gamp

      SIR RICHARD BRANSON DISCUSSES HIS TRIP TO SPACE FROM HIS LAUNCH PAD IN NEW MEXICO

      Sir Richard Branson discusses his trip to space from his launch pad in New Mexico

    • Joseph Gamp

      HOW MUCH IS VIRGIN GALACTIC WORTH?

      The space tourism company’s net worth is currently estimated at £2.9 billion ($4 billion).

      Meanwhile, in July 2021, Forbes listed Branson’s net worth at £4.1 billion ($5.7 billion).

    • Joseph Gamp

      WHEN DID RICHARD BRANSON’S SPACESHIP FIRST LAUNCH?

      After years of fine-tuning, Branson successfully reached space for the first time on December 13, 2018.

      SpaceShipTwo’s Unity plane flew higher than ever before in a test that marked a huge step toward Sir Richard’s goal of firing paying customers into space this year.

      The flight, launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 3.15pm GMT, soared to an altitude of 50 miles above Earth’s surface strapped to a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo.

      It successfully separated from its mother ship around 45 minutes after liftoff and engaged its rocket thrusters, reaching speeds of Mach 2.9.

      SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor burnt for 60 seconds before shutting off, carrying the spaceplane to a top altitude of 51.4 miles, according to Virgin Galactic.

      The feat marked the first time the company had reached the boundary of space as defined by the US Air Force and other US agencies.

    • Joseph Gamp

      RICHARD BRANSON: WHO IS THE BRIT BILLIONAIRE?

      The British billionaire, 70, is a self-made businessman who launched his company Virgin almost 50 years ago.

      He was born in Blackheath, London, in 1950 and started his first venture, Virgin Records, in 1972, which he later sold to EMI in 1992 for £500million.

      The dad-of-two has started up some very lucrative companies along the way, including Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984 and Virgin Trains in 1993.

      He launched Virgin Galactic in 2004, with the hope of offering future trips to space. Sir Richard has also created Virgin Media, Virgin Racing and Virgin Comics.

      In 2007, he was placed in the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list.

    • Joseph Gamp

      WHAT IS THE AIM OF VIRGIN GALACTIC?

      If all goes to plan, space fans will be launched more than 50 miles above Earth – a point at which Nasa define travellers as astronauts.

      Passengers will ride aboard SpaceShipTwo, a spaceplane designed to carry six passengers and two pilots.

      It is carried aloft by a large aeroplane before breaking away and zooming to an altitude of about 62 miles.

      In 2016, the late Professor Stephen Hawking unveiled Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo craft, called VSS Unity, after the first SpaceShipTwo craft VSS Enterprise crashed during tests in 2014.

      Virgin Galactic is up against fierce competition in the private space race from firms such as Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

    • Joseph Gamp

      HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO FLY INTO SPACE?

      With a hefty price tag of $250,000 (£175,000) a ticket, the 90-minute flight is being aimed at wealthy celebrities and thrillseekers, as well as researchers.

      Branson has said that “ultimately” he would like to see the price fall as low as $40,000 (£30,700) over the next decade.

      And there’s already a deluge of 700 celebrities and scientists desperate to get a chance to board the spacecraft – including Hollywood A-listers Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lady Gaga and Leonardo DiCaprio.

    • Joseph Gamp

      VIRGIN GALACTIC LAUNCHES: KEY MOMENTS

      • 2018: On December 13, Branson successfully reached space for the first time, reaching a height of  51.4 miles above the Earth
      • 2019: On February 22, Virgin Galactic reached space for the second time in ten weeks with three people on board, reaching three times the speed of light on the way up
      • 2021:On May 22, VSS marked the first-ever manned space flight from New Mexico
      • 2021: On July 11, the first flight with a full crew of six onboard will take place.

      WHEN DID RICHARD BRANSON’S SPACESHIP FIRST LAUNCH?

      After years of fine-tuning, Branson successfully reached space for the first time on December 13, 2018.

      SpaceShipTwo's Unity plane flew higher than ever before in a test that marked a huge step toward Sir Richard's goal of firing paying customers into space this year.

      The flight, launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 3.15pm GMT, soared to an altitude of 50 miles above Earth's surface strapped to a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo.

      It successfully separated from its mother ship around 45 minutes after liftoff and engaged its rocket thrusters, reaching speeds of Mach 2.9.

      SpaceShipTwo's rocket motor burnt for 60 seconds before shutting off, carrying the spaceplane to a top altitude of 51.4 miles, according to Virgin Galactic.

      The feat marked the first time the company had reached the boundary of space as defined by the US Air Force and other US agencies.

      BRANSON DESCRIBES FLIGHT AS 'PINCH ME MOMENT'

      "I've been looking forward to this for 17 years," Branson said in an interview on Tuesday from Spaceport America near the remote town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

      He said pre-flight preparations only add to the excitement ahead of Sunday's scheduled launch, which will be taking place one week before his 71st birthday.

      "Every bit about it is a pinch-me moment," he said.

      VIRGIN GALACTIC HAMPERED BY YEARS OF DELAYS

      The company was founded in 2004 with the aim of taking paying tourists to space but has been hampered by years of delays.

      Sir Richard's announcement came just days after Bezos revealed that he and his brother would be heading to space on July 20 on board a ship built by Blue Origin, a space tourism firm founded by Bezos in 2000.

      The Virgin boss will be taking off with three Virgin Galactic mission specialists: Chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, and government affairs VP Sirisha Bandla.

      The craft will be flown by Virgin Galactic pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci.

      WHEN ARE OTHER BILLIONAIRES PLANNING SPACE TRIPS?

      By joining the flight on July 11, Sir Richard has positioned himself to beat rival billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days.

      Bezos, founder of Amazon, will be on board the suborbital flight of the New Shepard spacecraft of his own private rocket company, Blue Origin, on July 20.

      Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, along with Elon Musk's SpaceX, are competing head-to-head in the emerging space tourism business.

      Musk has previously said he plans to go to space atop one of his company's rockets but has not given a timeframe for when he expects to fly.

      WHAT HAS SIR RICHARD SAID ABOUT THE FLIGHT?

      Ahead of the flight on July 11, the British billionaire said his wife may be nervous but he himself wasn't the least bit afraid.

      "I've been looking forward to this for 17 years," Sir Richard said in an interview on Tuesday from Spaceport America near the remote town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

      He said pre-flight preparations only add to the excitement ahead of Sunday's scheduled launch, which will be taking place one week before his 71st birthday.

      "Every bit about it is a pinch-me moment," he said.

      • Harvey Lindsay

        HOW SAFE IS IT?

        Virgin Galactic has flown its rocket planes 23 times, though only four of these have reached the edge of space.

        The spaceflights went without a hitch, according to Virgin Galactic. Tragically, the same cannot be said for all of its tests.

        In October 2014, a Virgin Galactic ship crashed, killing the co-pilot and leaving the pilot seriously injured.

        Witnessws described how the craft exploded in flight above the Mojave Desert in California before debris plummeted to the ground.

        It crashed after firing its rocket following a high-altitude drop from the
        Virgin Galactic mothership.

      • Harvey Lindsay

        VIRGIN GALACTIC DOES NOT USE A ROCKET TO LAUNCH INTO SPACE

        Unlike most spaceflight companies, Virgin Galactic does not use a rocket to reach space.

        Instead, its VSS Unity rocket plane ascends toward the heavens strapped to an enormous carrier plane called White Knight Two.

        At around 50,000ft above Earth's surface, Unity detaches from its mothership. For comparison, commercial airliners fly at 30,000ft.

        Once separated, Unity fires up its rocket engines and flies at a near-vertical angle into suborbital space.

      • Harvey Lindsay

        SIR RICHARD'S FLIGHT DATE, TIME AND HOW TO WATCH

        The "Unity 22" mission will liftoff from Virgin Galactic's spaceport in the New Mexico desert on July 11, according to the company.

        It is expected to begin at 9:00 am ET (2:00 pm BST) on the day of the flight.

        That could change last minute, however, if weather conditions are deemed unfavourable in the lead up to launch.

        For the first time, Virgin Galactic will livestream the test flight for people to watch along at home.

        The livestream will be available to watch on Virgin Galactic.com as well as the firm's official Twitter, YouTube and Facebook pages.

      • Harvey Lindsay

        HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO FLY INTO SPACE?

        With a hefty price tag of $250,000 (£175,000) a ticket, the 90-minute flight is being aimed at wealthy celebrities and thrillseekers, as well as researchers.

        Branson has said that "ultimately" he would like to see the price fall as low as $40,000 (£30,700) over the next decade.

        And there's already a deluge of 700 celebrities and scientists desperate to get a chance to board the spacecraft – including Hollywood A-listers Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lady Gaga and Leonardo DiCaprio.

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