Will Richard Branson Fly to Space on His Own Virgin Galactic Spaceship in July?

Richard Branson, the British billionaire and CEO of  Virgin Galactic intends to travel to space by July on board his own Virgin Galactic spaceship, according to the AFP.

During an event to celebrate Virgin Galactic at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, Branson said he wishes to fly to space on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, so that's what they’re working to do. 

The American Apollo 11 mission made a successful lunar landing on July 20, 1969.

Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, are working on flying passengers into space, although it will only be for a few minutes.

Both companies are aiming to send hundreds or even thousands of space tourists on these short "suborbital" flights, which means they wouldn't get high enough to orbit our planet.

These missions would be shorter and less expensive than SpaceX's intended goal of sending a Japanese billionaire to the moon by 2023 at the earliest.

In December, Virgin Galactic flew 50 miles (80 km) above the earth, which the US believes to be the edge of space, for the first time. However, the international consensus is that the edge of space is 100 km above our planet.

Virgin Galactic's spaceship, dubbed SpaceShipTwo, is flown by two pilots. For take off, it's dropped by a carrier plane much like a bomb, then starts its own engine to fly straight into the sky, eventually gaining enough altitude to see how Earth curves.

The spaceship then hovers and comes back down to Earth naturally, gliding back towards the  Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It can hold six passengers along with the two pilots.

Although Branson has previously announced dates for the first trip to the edge of space, none have actually taken place yet. However, this time Branson claims they are in the final stages of preparation.

He stated that they should have performed enough testing by July.

Nevertheless, Branson doesn't want to make any promises he can't keep. Thus he said he'd be waiting for his team to give the Ok and he doesn’t want to rush them. But Branson believes they'll be ready to take clients by the end of 2019.

Branson also said that the SpaceShipTwo's next test flight is scheduled for February 20, as long as weather conditions cooperate.

Photo credit: Virgin Galactic