Richard Branson Insists There's No Competition Between Him and Jeff Bezos Ahead of July Space Flights: 'I Know Nobody Will Believe Me'
Last week, the billionaire announced that he will be flying into space July 11 on a Virgin Galactic rocket alongside five other people.
Most things take place at a larger scale when you’re a billionaire, especially when engaging in a little friendly compeition. For the world's richest entrepreneurs, that competition is currently being played out in outer space.
Last week, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson announced that he will be flying into space on a Virgin Galactic (SPCE) commercial test flight launching July 11. He will be on board alongside two pilots and three other corporate and engineering personnel: Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, Lead Operations Engineer Colin Bennett and Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations Sirisha Bandla. Branson’s main role on the flight will be “evaluating customer spaceflight experience.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos had previously publicize his intentions to board Blue Origin rocket New Shepard for a brief space flight on July 20.
The dueling summer liftoffs would appear to support the notion of a battle between Bezos, Branson and and SpaceX founder Elon Musk to see who will make it off the planet and back first, though Branson insists there is no such rivalry.
“I know nobody will believe me when I say it, but honestly, there isn't," Branson remarked on the subject during an interview with Today on Tuesday. He also gave the show an exclusive look at Galactic's VSS Unity.
“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,” Branson gushed in the company’s initial announcement last week. “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.”
Branson’s decision to launch into space comes on the heels of his team’s first-ever successful human space flight back in May, which was also the first time any spacecraft launched from New Mexico. (It was the third time in all that Virgin Galactic reached outer space.)
July 11’s mission marks a massive moment for the company, which saw the loss of co-pilot Michael Alsbury during a 2014 accident in Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo aircraft above the Mojave Desert.
This test flight will proceed two more before Virgin launches its commercial service next year, with the company noting that “the team will complete inspections of the vehicles and an extensive data review, which will inform the next steps in the test flight program.” The team was approved for passenger space travel by the FAA at the end of last month.
Branson has been generating excitement on his Twitter account, including daily countdowns until takeoff.
Virgin Galactic's stock valuation was up as much as a whopping 171.74% year over year as of early Tuesday afternoon.