Branson and five crew members from his Virgin Galactic space tourism company were on board. The space plane is expected to glide to a runway landing after the crew has experienced a few minutes of weightlessness.
Billionaire who seeks thrills In his most daring journey yet, Richard Branson has reached space aboard his own winged rocket spacecraft. Branson, who is nearly 71 years old, has already surpassed fellow billionaire and rival Jeff Bezos, who plans to sail to space in a craft of his own in nine days.
In the first part of the trip, a twin-fuselage aircraft with Branson’s space plane attached beneath took off in front of roughly 500 people, including Branson’s wife, children, and grandchildren. Branson and five crew members from his Virgin Galactic space tourism company were on board.
At an altitude of around 8 1/2 miles (13 kilometers), the space plane separated from the mother ship and launched its engine, reaching the edge of space at about 53 miles (88 kilometers). The space plane is expected to glide to a runway landing after the crew has experienced a few minutes of weightlessness.
The voyage was intended to enhance Virgin Galactic’s confidence before it begins carrying paying clients on joyrides next year. Branson tweeted in the morning, “It’s a wonderful day to go to space,” with a photo of himself with fellow billionaire and space-tourism rival Elon Musk.
Branson, the flamboyant Virgin Atlantic Airways founder who was born in London, wasn’t expected to fly until later this summer. However, once Bezos revealed intentions to launch his own rocket ship into space from Texas on July 20, he assigned himself to an earlier trip.
Virgin Galactic, which was launched in 2004, has already received more than 600 bookings for a trip into space. Blue Origin, Bezos’ company, has yet to launch ticket sales or even disclose rates, but it boasted on Twitter late last week that it would take clients higher and provide larger windows. Unlike Blue Origin and Musk’s SpaceX, both launch capsules atop rockets.
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