Virgin Galactic to launch Sir Richard Branson from Spaceport America this Sunday

Along with five other crew members, Virgin Galactic will send their founder to the reaches of space during the company’s first fully crewed test flight.
By | Published: July 9, 2021 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

The crew of Unity 22.

Virgin Galactic
In their next step toward space tourism, Virgin Galactic will launch its first fully crew flight to suborbital space aboard VSS Unity on July 11, taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico. While this is the fourth crewed flight for the company overall, it will be the first time Virgin Galactic will venture to space with six crew members onboard.

The flight will be livestreamed on Virgin Galactic’s Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook pages (you can also watch the event directly below). At the time of writing, the stream is expected to begin at 9:00 a.m. EDT on Sunday.

Onboard this flight will be two pilots, along with four mission specialists charged with the tasks of evaluating everything from the safety of the flight to the overall astronaut experience. The most talked about specialist on this flight, however, will be Virgin’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. His mission will focus on testing what it’s like to be a private astronaut on VSS Unity, as Virgin Galactic looks to open up space tourism to paying customers in the near future.

“I truly believe that space belongs to all of us,” said Branson in a Virgin Galactic press release. “After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good. It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality.

Bolstering the expected fanfare that comes with any Branson-hosted event, hip-hop artist Khalid recently announced he will release a brand new song during the flight’s pre-launch celebrations. The song was inspired Khalid’s by interest in space, according to Rolling Stone magazine. Additionally, Branson said that after he returns from his maiden spaceflight, he has something else special to announce.

“And when we return,” Branson said during an introduction video for this mission’s crew, “I will announce something very exciting to give more people a chance to become astronauts. Because space does belong to us all. So, watch this space.”

If all things go according to plan on Sunday, Virgin Galactic is expected to perform two more flight tests before they open up their commercial service phase in 2022.