Virgin Galactic on Thursday announced that it will be conducting its first full crew test flight along with company founder Richard Branson on July 11, just days before Amazon founder Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosSpaceX launches first all-civilian orbit crew into space Tucker Carlson says he lies when 'I'm really cornered or something' Feehery: Not this way MORE is set to launch from Earth in his own spacecraft.
The British-American spaceflight company said in a press release that the “Unity 22” mission will mark the 22nd test flight for the VSS Unity spacecraft and the fourth crewed mission for the company.
Branson, who the company said will be “testing the private astronaut experience,” will be joined on the flight by two pilots and three other mission specialists.
According to Virgin Galactic, the July flight will focus on “evaluating the commercial customer cabin with a full crew, including the cabin environment, seat comfort, the weightless experience, and the views of Earth that the spaceship delivers.”
The mission will also work to demonstrate the “conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments,” with the training program at New Mexico-based Spaceport America supporting “the spaceflight experience.”
Virgin Galactic said that it will share a global livestream of the spaceflight, accessible on the company’s website and its Twitter, YouTube and Facebook pages.
The company also unveiled the mission in a tweet, along with a video introducing the flight team.
Branson in the video explained, “I’ve always been a dreamer,” adding that his mother told him “to never give up and to reach for the stars.”
Join us July 11th for our first fully crewed rocket powered test flight, and the beginning of a new space age.— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) July 1, 2021
The countdown begins. #Unity22
https://t.co/5UalYT7Hjb. @RichardBranson pic.twitter.com/ZL9xbCeWQX
“This July, our dream will become a reality,” he said, adding that when the team returns, he plans on announcing “something very exciting to give more people a chance to become astronauts, because space does belong to us all.”
Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement that the upcoming mission “is a testament to the dedication and technical brilliance of our entire team.”
“Tapping into Sir Richard’s expertise and long history of creating amazing customer experiences will be invaluable as we work to open the wonder of space travel and create awe-inspiring journeys for our customers,” he added of Branson, who was knighted at Buckingham Palace in 2000 for "services to entrepreneurship.”
The announcement comes amid a race among companies aiming to improve space flight technology, with the goal to eventually open ships up for commercial use.
Virgin Galactic said Thursday that it plans to conduct two additional test flights after its July 11 mission before it hopes to officially launch commercial service in 2022.
Bezos and his brother are set to launch into space with his Blue Origin space flight company July 20.
The brothers will be joined by a $28 million charity auction winner, as well as female aerospace pioneer Wally Funk, who completed astronaut training in 1961 as a member of the "Mercury 13" Woman in Space Program, which was ultimately cut before she was able to participate in a mission.