Space flight will be “amazing,” according to Sir Richard Branson.
Sir Richard Branson, a British businessman, is about to fulfill a lifelong passion by flying to the edge of space.
On Sunday, he’ll fly to an altitude where the sky turns dark and the Earth’s horizon curls away into the distance on his Virgin Galactic rocket plane.
Before inviting paying customers aboard next year, the entrepreneur says he wants to analyze the experience.
At around 07:00 local US time, the vehicle will take off for the 1.5-hour mission above New Mexico (14:00 BST).
The event will be streamed live online by Virgin Galactic.
Sir Richard has traveled a long way to reach this point. He first started his plans to build a spaceplane in 2004, estimating that a commercial service would be available by 2007.
However, technical issues, including a deadly crash on a research flight in 2014, have made the space project one of his most difficult endeavors.
“I’ve wanted to go to space since I was a kid,” Sir Richard told the BBC, “and I want to enable hundreds of thousands of other people to go to space over the next 100 years.”
“And why shouldn’t they travel to the stars? The Universe is gorgeous, and the space is remarkable. I want people to be able to gaze back at our lovely Earth and return home to attempt to perform magic with it in order to care for it.”
How does his rocket plane work?
Unity will be flown by a much larger plane to a height of roughly 15 kilometers (50,000 feet), where it will be launched.
A rocket motor in the back of Unity will then fire, propelling the spacecraft into the sky. Sir Richard, his three crewmates, and the two pilots in front will have an incredible view of the earth below once the motor has burned for 60 seconds.
Unity can reach a maximum height of 90 kilometers (50 miles) or 295,000 feet, but near the top of the climb, Sir Richard will experience a few minutes of weightlessness, allowing him to float around the cabin and look out the window.
He’ll have to buckle back into his seat for the glide back to the spaceport in New Mexico at some point.
Who are Sir Richard’s rivals?
Unity is a vehicle that travels at a sub-orbital speed. This means it won’t be able to maintain the requisite velocity and
altitude to round the globe.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, owns the only other near-market sub-orbital system. He’s developed a rocket and capsule dubbed New Shepard, and he’ll be the first person to fly in it on July 20.
The retail mogul, along with his brother Mark, the renowned female aviator Wally Funk, and a mysterious individual who won $28 million (£20 million) in a ticket auction, will ride to just over 100 kilometers over Texas.
However, whereas Sir Richard has a waiting list of 600 people who have already paid deposits on tickets worth up to $250,000 (£180,000), Mr. Bezos hasn’t stated anything about how he plans to monetize New Shepard.