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BRANSON FLIGHT ON VSS UNITY, July 11, 2021, New Mexico, livestream begins 10:30 am ET

Update, July 11:  The flight — and the livestream — have been delayed 90 minutes and now will begin at 10:30 am ET.

Original Entry: Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson will fly to space on Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Unity on July 11, 2021 from Spaceport America in New Mexico “pending weather and technical checks.”  VSS Unity is a SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane.

The flight is designated Unity 22 — the 22nd flight for VSS Unity. It is the company’s fourth crewed spaceflight and the first to carry a full complement of two pilots and four “mission specialists” of which Branson is one.

The event will be livestreamed on Virgin Galactic.com and simulcast on the Virgin Galactic TwitterYouTube, and Facebook channels. It is expected to begin at 7:00 am Mountain Daylight Time (9:00 am EDT ).

More information is in the company’s press release.

Branson made the announcement on July 1 in an apparent attempt to beat fellow mega-billionaire Jeff Bezos across the imaginary line that separates air and space. Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, plans to fly to space on his New Shepard rocket on July 20.  Both systems are suborbital and the spaceflights last only a few minutes.

Branson’s VSS Unity is dropped from an aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, and fires its rocket engine to reach an altitude of about 50 miles (80 kilometers), which the FAA and others use as the demarcation point between air and space. It then glides back to a landing at Spaceport America.

The WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, Eve, will be piloted by CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer. VSS Unity will be piloted by Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci. Joining Branson as mission specialists are three Virgin Galactic employees: Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennet, lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations.

Bezos’s New Shepard is a completely different type of system — a rocket with a crew capsule — and Bezos uses the international standard of the Karman Line at 100 kilometers (62 miles) as the demarcation between air and space.


July 11, 2021
9:00 am - 11:00 pm