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Sir Richard Branson is preparing to launch the world’s first space tourist flight Sunday, July 11th at 9 AM EDT.

Watch LIVE at CFACT.org.

The  flight marks robust competition among three space-focused billionaires: Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’Blue Origin, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Bezos had hoped to be the first billionaire space tourist but Branson is pushing hard to fly first.

There is a point of contention between Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Bezos’ Blue Origin, with Bezos’ team claiming that Branson’s Unity craft is only capable of reaching the outer bounds of Earth-bound flight, while unable to cross the boundary into space as Blue Origin and SpaceX spacecraft are designed to do.

“The company’s main point of contention appears to be regarding the Kármán line: an imaginary marker 62 miles above mean sea level which many organizations use as a way of determining when spaceflight has been achieved.”  That’s out of range for Branson’s Origin, although Branson still plans to claim the milestone by choosing to side with those who define the edge of space as 50 miles above the surface of the Earth.

Branson’s space plane is lifted to a height of 45,000 feet beneath a larger craft named White Knight 2.  The space plane is then released and continues on using its own rocket engines.  It returns to Earth as a glider.

Branson, Bezos and Musk have all contributed to expanding space technology and infrastructure, while lowering the cost of sending payloads into space.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already launching crew and supplies to the International Space Station using reusable rockets at prices that make mankind’s continued quest for space more achievable every day.

The new era of private sector efficiency and innovation in space is truly exciting.

Godspeed Virgin Galactic!

Virgin Galactic tells their origin story:

The Unity 22 Crew:

Virgin Galactic on “How to Build a Spaceship:”

From Virgin Galactic:

LAS CRUCES, N.M. July 1, 2021 – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin
Galactic”), a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, today announced that the
flight window for the next rocket-powered test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity opens July 11,
pending weather and technical checks.

The “Unity 22” mission will be the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and the Company’s fourth
crewed spaceflight. It will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission
specialists in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, who will be testing
the private astronaut experience.

Building on the success of the Company’s most recent spaceflight in May, Unity 22 will focus on
cabin and customer experience objectives, including:

• 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
— all to ensure every moment of the astronaut’s journey maximizes the wonder and awe
created by space travel

• Demonstrating the conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments

• Confirming the training program at Spaceport America supports the spaceflight experience
For the first time, Virgin Galactic will share a global livestream of the spaceflight. Audiences around
the world are invited to participate virtually in the Unity 22 test flight and see first-hand the
extraordinary experience Virgin Galactic is creating for future astronauts. The livestream will be
available to watch on Virgin Galactic.com and will be simulcast on the Virgin Galactic Twitter,
YouTube, and Facebook channels. It is expected to begin at 7:00 am MDT / 9:00 am EDT on the day
of the flight.

The flight’s four mission specialists will be:

• Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor at Virgin Galactic. Moses will serve as cabin lead and
test director in space, overseeing the safe and efficient execution of the test flight
objectives.

• Colin Bennett, Lead Operations Engineer at Virgin Galactic. Bennett will evaluate cabin
equipment, procedures, and experience during both the boost phase and in the weightless
environment.

• Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin
Galactic. Bandla will be evaluating the human-tended research experience, using an
experiment from the University of Florida that requires several handheld fixation tubes that
will be activated at various points in the flight profile.

• Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. Branson will evaluate the private astronaut
experience and will undergo the same training, preparation and flight as Virgin Galactic’s
future astronauts. The Company will use his observations from his flight training and
spaceflight experience to enhance the journey for all future astronaut customers.

The pilots for this mission are Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci flying VSS Unity, and CJ Sturckow
and Kelly Latimer flying VMS Eve.

Following this flight, and in line with normal procedures, the team will complete inspections of the
vehicles and an extensive data review, which will inform the next steps in the test flight program.
Two additional test flights are planned before the Company expects to commence commercial
service in 2022.

Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Our next flight—the 22nd flight
test for VSS Unity and our first fully crewed flight test—is a testament to the dedication and
technical brilliance of our entire team, and I’d like to extend a special thank you to our pilots and
mission specialists, each of whom will be performing important work. 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.”
Sir Richard Branson said: “I truly believe that space belongs to all of us. After more than 16 years of
research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space
industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good. 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. 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.”

via CFACT

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July 10, 2021