“It’s one thing to have the dream of making space more accessible to everyone,” Branson said in a statement. “It’s another thing for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality.”
The company plans to air the flight beginning at 9 a.m. ET on July 11. The SpaceShipTwo rocket, called Unity, will be transported under a plane called White Knight Two at an altitude of 50,000 feet before being launched. Unity’s engine will start, taking it over 50 miles.
At the top of the arch, passengers will float for about four minutes before the space plane re-enters the atmosphere and glides toward a landing on the runway.
If all goes according to plan, Branson will make his flight nine days before Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is placed in the New Shepard capsule built by his rocket company, Blue Origin. New Shepard has flown to the edge of space 15 times, but has yet to transport people. It is fully automated, without pilots.
Billionaires like Branson, Bezos and Elon Musk are at the forefront in a new era of commercial spaceflight, accompanied by sometimes funny, sometimes disparaging verbal jousts about who is better company.
On Wednesday, during an appearance on CNBC, Branson was asked if he was trying to beat Bezos into space. “Jeff who?” Mr. Branson responded with a serious face before laughing.