Branson dubs himself 'Astronaut 001' and will fly to space before Jeff Bezos

Billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson is set for his first space flight with Virgin Galactic.

The company’s owner is due to test the ‘private astronaut experience’ during the next test flight window, beginning on July 11.

Which means he will travel into space nine days earlier than billionaire rival Jeff Bezos.

Branson said he is ‘honoured’ to be able to help “ensure his business delivers a unique customer experience”.

Virgin Galactic were given the go-ahead to fly paying customers to space after its licence was updated by the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this month.

The main objectives of the next test flight, taking off from Virgin Galactic’s spaceport in New Mexico, will be ‘evaluating… seat comfort, the weightless experience and the views of Earth’ in the space cabin.

The company said it also wants to demonstrate the conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments and confirm the training programme at Spaceport America supports the spaceflight experience.

Speaking ahead of his upcoming space flight, Sir Richard said: ‘I truly believe that space belongs to all of us.

‘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.

‘It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality.

‘As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.’

Addressing the benefits of Branson embarking on the next space flight, Michael Colglazier, chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic, said: ‘Our next flight – the 22nd flight test for VSS Unity and our first fully crewed flight test – is a testament to the dedication and technical brilliance of our entire team, and I’d like to extend a special thank you to our pilots and mission specialists, each of whom will be performing important work.

‘Tapping into Sir Richard’s expertise and long history of creating amazing customer experiences will be invaluable as we work to open the wonder of space travel and create awe-inspiring journeys for our customers.’

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