Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson flies to space aboard VSS Unity!
Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spacecraft carried by VMS Eve has successfully lifted off from Spaceport America in New Mexico at around 8:10 pm IST. The historic Unity 22 flight is carrying four astronauts, including the company's billionaire CEO Sir Richard Branson and Indian-origin astronaut Sirisha Bandla. The flight is expected to last 90 minutes, and the crew will experience zero-gravity for approximately five minutes.
Virgin Galactic is live-streaming VSS Unity's flight
Branson's maiden voyage to the vast cosmos is being streamed live by Virgin Galactic through its website and official social media handles. The launch was supposed to happen on July 11 at 6:00 am PT (6:30 pm IST) but was delayed due to weather conditions.
VMS Eve is carrying VSS Unity to upper atmosphere
The business baron's spaceflight marks Virgin Galactic's first fully crewed test flight to space, ahead of similar missions in the pipeline for former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and SpaceX boss Elon Musk. Before flying by itself, the VSS Unity has hitched a ride to an altitude of 50,000 feet strapped to the twin-fuselage carrier jet named after Branson's mother, VMS Eve.
Ninety-minute spaceflight to begin and end at Spaceport America
The white VSS Unity spacecraft will be piloted by Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci while pilots CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer are flying the VMS Eve carrier jet. The VSS Unity is carrying Branson and three other mission specialists on a 90-minute trip to space. The mission is expected to begin and also end on a runway of Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Bandla becomes fourth Indian-origin astronaut to fly to space
Although this is VSS Unity spacecraft's fourth manned test, it is the first one carrying a full load of astronauts, including Virgin Galactic's Indian-origin VP of Government Affairs Bandla, Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, Lead Operations Engineer Colin Bennett, and Branson himself. The flight has made Bandla the fourth Indian-origin astronaut to fly to space after Rakesh Sharma, Kalpana Chawla, and Sunita Williams.
Branson's space flight announced just days before Bezos's
After Amazon founder Bezos announced plans to fly to space on July 20 aboard a Blue Origin spacecraft, Branson reportedly said he was not interested in participating in a "space race." However, Branson appears to have had a change of mind and is now set to create history by becoming the first billionaire in space ever.