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Branson plans to make his first space trip a few days before Bezos takes off

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity glides to base camp after the test flight.

Richard Branson plans to fly to space on July 11, a few days before billionaire Jeff Bezos embarked on a similar journey. Shares of Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings soared.

According to a company statement, the VSS Unity spacecraft will also carry three Virgin Galactic employees and two pilots from the launch site in New Mexico. Bezos plans to travel in space on July 20 from nearby West Texas on a rocket made by Amazon’s founder’s space company Blue Origin.

Branson’s suborbital flight will achieve a long-term goal for the British billionaire and Virgin Galactic, which he founded in 2004. The company recently completed the data analysis of the last test flight on May 22 and concluded that it is ready to evaluate the cabin experience, the CEO said Michael Kolglazer. Branson chose the one he prefers to join among the two flights planned this summer.

“The basis for it is: we are ready,” Colglazier said in an interview. “Nothing about the space race or’Who will go first?” “It worked. When we are ready to fly, we will conduct a test flight. “

The company said Branson will evaluate the “private astronaut experience” because Virgin Galactic is preparing to provide flights to wealthy customers in 2022. This month’s voyage will be similar to the test flight in May, where Unity flies to an altitude of more than 89 kilometers. “

Branson said in the statement: “After more than 16 years of research, engineering and testing, Virgin Galactic is at the forefront of the new commercial space industry, which will open up space for mankind and change the world forever.”

Virgin Galactic shares soared 34% to $57.80 before the start of regular New York trading. The flight was announced after the US stock market closed on Thursday.

This trip will be the fourth space flight between Virgin Galactic and the crew. Joining Branson will be the company’s chief astronaut coach Beth Moses, who has flown before; Colin Bennett, an operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs.

Virgin Galactic executives said they intend to resume ticket sales after two test flights this summer. The company suspended sales after a crash in 2014 resulted in the death of a test pilot. After the planned trip on July 11, Branson stated in a blog post that he will “announce a very exciting thing that will give more people the opportunity to become astronauts.”

Virgin Galactic plans to start its regular commercial services next year.

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