Virgin Galactic downplays rumblings about a suborbital Branson vs. Bezos space race

How critical may the suborbital space race between Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos get? (GeekWire Photos)

Would Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson attempt to steal a march on Blue Origin (and Amazon) founder Jeff Bezos when it comes right down to which billionaire flies first on their very own suborbital spaceship?

There’s been some buzz about that query within the wake of this week’s announcement that Bezos will be among the first people to travel to the edge of space in Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon touchdown.

Branson was fast to tweet his congratulations when Bezos’ plans got here to gentle, but additionally advised followers to “watch this space.”

And at present, Parabolic Arc’s Doug Messier — who’s lengthy reported on Virgin Galactic’s ups and downs from its residence base in Mojave, Calif. — quoted an unnamed supply as saying that the company was working on a plan to put Branson aboard its VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket airplane for a journey past 50 miles in altitude over the Fourth of July vacation weekend.

Messier quoted his supply as saying the July four plan was contingent upon receiving licensing approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier has mentioned Branson could be on one of many upcoming SpaceShipTwo flights, going down as early as this summer season. But the anticipated plan is for VSS Unity to do a check flight with a lower-ranking crew of “mission specialists” first, and fly the boss on the journey after that.

Virgin Galactic’s check pilots flew VSS Unity above the 50-mile mark most recently on May 22. The firm considers 50 miles to be the boundary of space, in accordance with the FAA’s definition for awarding industrial astronaut wings. In distinction, Blue Origin focuses on the 100-kilometer-high (62-mile-high) mark, the internationally accepted space boundary that’s often known as the Karman Line.

In an emailed assertion, Virgin Galactic mentioned it was nonetheless “in the process of analyzing the data from our successful May 22nd flight.”

“As previously announced, we expect to complete the final test flights this summer through to early fall,” the corporate mentioned. “At this time, we have not determined the date of our next flight.”

The assertion didn’t reject the concept mission planners is perhaps wanting into the choices for giving Branson an early space trip.

However, a supply who’s accustomed to the scenario surrounding the flight check schedule mentioned claims about sending Branson into space in the course of the July four weekend could be false data, primarily based on the present insurance policies for analyzing check knowledge and assessing flight security. The supply spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to debate the scenario publicly.

Meanwhile, the web public sale for an open seat on the primary New Shepard flight to hold individuals is constant, with the excessive bid reaching $3.eight million at present. The public sale will attain its climax on Saturday with a reside bidding session that will likely be streamed through Blue Origin’s website beginning at 9:45 a.m. PT. Bids will registered confidentially, and Blue Origin says the id of the winner will likely be revealed “in the weeks following the auction’s conclusion.”

Proceeds from the public sale will likely be donated to the Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s nonprofit instructional basis. The winner would fill a seat alongside Jeff Bezos and his brother, Mark Bezos, plus as much as three different spacefliers who would presumably be Blue Origin staff or VIPs.

It’d be fairly one thing if Branson — or, for that matter, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk — ended up with the excessive bid. Would or not it’s an excessive amount of to think about the billionaire space rivals using collectively just like the stars of a sci-fi buddy movie?

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