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Sir Richard Branson to launch into space on VSS Unity


Sir Richard Branson to launch into space on VSS Unity

Richard Branson to launch into space on SpaceShipTwo
Photo: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson will launch into space on the VSS Unity spaceplane today.

This launch, the 22nd test flight and 4th manned mission of the spaceplane—will mark the first time that a billionaire has travelled out of the atmosphere. Branson’s launch takes place just weeks before Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos plans his own July 20 launch.

Space companies including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are vying for a place in the commercial space market, but each company’s goals are different. SpaceX has leveraged its Falcon Heavy 9 rocket platform to cut the cost of commercial launches to orbit, while Virgin Galactic is using piloted spaceplanes and Blue Origin unpiloted capsules for short-duration space tourism.

Today’s launch speaks to a larger international movement of innovation in space. US private companies are leading global space innovation from launch systems to capsules and payloads, but China has recently demonstrated its own competence launching and supplying its Tianhe space station. Space competition is the core of a new US-China great power competition. In the mid-term, expect the US military to take advantage of its private industry innovation advantage by aggressive integration of private industry into space-based military capabilities programs.

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