IT could be a battle of the billionaires to see who can launch themselves into space first as Richard Branson could beat Jeff Bezos.
The Amazon CEO announced this week that he and his brother would be heading to space on July 20 on Blue Origin’s New Shepherd spacecraft.
However, according to a report by Doug Messier on the Parabolic Arc website, “Virgin Galactic is working on a plan to send Branson on a suborbital flight aboard the VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the July 4 holiday weekend.”
If that’s true, Branson would beat Bezos to space by 16 days.
Messier said his source wishes to remain anonymous but the US space journalist has been connected to credible sources in the past.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic space company has neither confirmed nor denied the rumour.
When asked by Ars Technica whether the report was true, Virgin Galactic said: “We are in the process of analyzing the data from our successful May 22nd flight.
“As previously announced, we expect to complete the final test flights this summer through to early fall.
“At this time, we have not determined the date of our next flight.”
Virgin Galactic would need to get an operator’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before it could fly Branson into suborbital space.
Messier’s source said the licence should be received in early July.
That would mean the flight is plausible given other turn around times after tests of the VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane.
VSS Unity can fit two pilots and six passengers.
It carried out successful tests in 2018 and 2019 and aims to one day take tourists into suborbital space.
The space plane could begin commercial flights as early as next year.
Blue Origin’s flight path to suborbital space
A step-by-step guide to the journey…
- New Shepard is a reusable rocket with an attached crew capsule for passengers.
- New Shepard will launch vertically for about two and a half minutes before main engine cut-off.
- The capsule will then separate from the rocket; passengers will be weightless for about four minutes during the 11-minute flight.
- Those on-board will be high enough (at an altitude of 307,000 feet or 93,573 meters) to see the curvature of Earth.
- The spacecraft will coast for a few minutes in space before re-entering the atmosphere.
- New Shepard will land using an autonomous, rocket powered vertical landing system.
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