Virgin Galactic is making final preparations for its first fully crewed flight to space, and you can watch the entire event in real time.
Among the six-person crew on the rocket-powered VSS Unity space plane heading toward the Kármán line (a location about 62 miles of Earth that’s widely considered to mark the edge of space) on Sunday, July 11, will be Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, ostensibly there to test the customer experience for future passengers who’ll take the same ride as part of Virgin Galactic’s planned space tourism service.
However, the fact that the suborbital flight was announced shortly after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos revealed that he planned to be among the first group of passengers to ride to the Kármán line on his New Shepard rocket later in the month suggests Branson is keen to beat his fellow billionaire in the race to space.
Moneyed folks have already been dropping $250,000 for a seat on a future Virgin Galactic space tourism flight, though the company is yet to set a date for the launch of the service. Blue Origin, operated by Bezos, is also vying to launch a similar service, but is yet to announce how much the experience will cost.
The two rides will be different in that Virgin Galactic’s starts and ends on a conventional runway at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port, while Blue Origin’s involves a rocket launch and a parachute-assisted landing inside a capsule in the West Texas desert. But both rides are set to offer breathtaking views, a short period of weightlessness, and enough material to dine out on for years to come.
Commenting on the upcoming flight, 70-year-old Branson said last week: “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.”
You can watch Virgin Galactic’s first-ever fully crewed flight by heading to its website on Sunday, July 11, which is when the launch window opens.
The livestream is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. ET (6 a.m. PT). After final checks are made, you’ll see the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane transport VSS Unity to an altitude of around 50,000 feet before releasing it, whereupon Unity’s rocket will fire up and blast the space plane and its six crew members toward the Kármán line. A short while later, Unity will glide back to Earth for a runway landing.
We’re expecting cameras to capture the mission from multiple angles, with views offered from inside and outside both aircraft, as well as cameras on the ground capturing all of the action.