When Is Richard Branson Going to Space? How to Livestream Virgin Galactic VSS Unity Launch

Richard Branson's space tourism company Virgin Galactic is due to launch its first fully-crewed spaceflight on July 11, and the event will be livestreamed.

The flight, called Unity 22, will be the 22nd test fight for the company's VSS Unity spaceplane and the fourth test flight to have a crew on board.

But for the first time, the plane will carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists, including Branson, founder of the Virgin Group business empire.

The test flight is scheduled for July 11, though the exact time is not known. Virgin Galactic is due to host its own livestream on YouTube, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. EDT., a one hour 30-minute delay from the original scheduled time.

The stream can also be viewed on Virgin Galactic's website and its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The flight is due to launch from Spaceport America, a space launch center located near the city of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The spaceport is not owned by Virgin Galactic.

Branson, 70, has been teasing the test flight for days, posting a daily countdown on his Twitter account ever since July 2.

10…

9…

— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 2, 2021

Virgin Galactic says the purpose of the flight is to see what sort of experience passengers will have in a fully-crewed customer cabin, including seat comfort, the view of Earth, and the feeling of being weightless.

Branson said in a statement earlier this month: "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."

Virgin Galactic is set to compete with Blue Origin, the space tourism company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin is set to launch its first crewed flight on July 20. Bezos, plus a selection of other guests including 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk and Bezos' younger brother Mark, will be part of the crew.

However, the two companies are taking different approaches in terms of how they get to space.

Whilst Blue Origin will use a single-stage vertical rocket with the crew capsule mounted on top, Virgin Galactic will instead use a spaceplane.

Instead of being launched directly from the ground, Virgin Galactic uses what it calls an "air-launch," in which the spaceplane is carried to an altitude of around 50,000 feet by a larger aircraft.

The spaceplane is then released before it activates a rocket engine that takes it the rest of the way to nearly 300,000 feet. The plane then falls to Earth and glides back to the runway for a landing.

07/11/21, 9:23 a.m. ET. Update: This article has been updated to include details of the delayed launch.

Virgin Galactic test flight
A Virgin Galactic test flight shows one of the company's spaceplanes high above the Earth with three on board. The company's spaceplanes launch mid-air rather than from the ground. Virgin Galactic, 2018