MOJAVE, Calif. (UPI) —
Virgin Galactic announced Thursday it will launch its first fully crewed spaceflight on July 11 with founder Richard Branson onboard.
The space tourism company said it will launch the 22nd flight
of its VSS Unity spacecraft with a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists, including Branson who will test the “private astronaut experience.”
“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,” Branson said.
Virgin Galactic said the flight will focus on evaluating the commercial customer cabin with a full crew, demonstrating conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments, and confirming the training program at Spaceport America supports the spaceflight experience.
The pilots on the VSS Unity will be Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, while chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett and government affairs Vice President Sirisha Bandla will join Branson on the crew.
In June, Virgin Galactic announced it had received approval
from U.S. regulators to fly customers into space after completing a May 22 test flight.
The flight would also place Branson in space before fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos, who is set to be onboard the first passenger flight
by his space company, Blue Origin, on July 20.
Reporting by Daniel Uria
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