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- Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson may try to outrun Jeff Bezos in space next month, according to an industry blog.
- Virgin Galactic did not rebut the claim in response to an Insider question, saying Branson is expected to fly in the summer.
- An outside expert says the estimated launch date for the weekend of July 4th is “quite doable.”
- Visit the Business Insider SA homepage to learn more…
The billionaire space race seems to be in full swing and approaching. Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson may have the edge of space next month.
Bezos announced on Monday that he plans to fly into space aboard a New Shepard rocket developed by Blue Origin, the aerospace company he founded in 2000. The launch is scheduled for July 20.
The next day report from Douglas Messier, who runs the longtime space blog Parabolic Arc, pointed out that Virgin Galactic may be rushing to launch its own founder, Branson, ahead of Bezos. “An anonymous source” told Messier that the company plans to launch Branson on a test flight of its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the weekend of July 4th. This would allow Branson to outpace Bezos in space in just two weeks.
According to Messier’s source, the company began making these plans in response to Blue Origin setting a date for its maiden flight with a crew. Blue Origin made this announcement on May 5 – long before Bezos announced he would be on board.
The insider was unable to independently confirm Messier’s message. But in a statement to Insider, a Virgin Galactic spokesman did not deny the report’s claims.
“Currently we have not determined the date of our next flight,” said the spokesman.
A company spokesperson added that Branson’s flight is “expected in the summer months,” as is a separate test flight with four “mission specialists” – employees playing the role of prospective passengers.
Virgin Galactic previously said that mission specialists would take off before Branson. But as of Wednesday, the spokesman did not answer the question of which of the two flights will be the first.
“You can easily imagine swapping flights or putting Richard Branson in one of these four seats, just as a test subject, if you like.” – George Nield, former assistant administrator at the Federal Aviation Administration, where he heads the Commercial Space Transportation Administration , Insider reported.
According to Nilda, Branson “has done some pretty risky things in his career.” “And he obviously believes in this program. If he is comfortable that everything is fine and he is ready to go on his own, then he will have more power. “
“It’s kind of funny, these billionaires are having fun by flying their vehicles for the first time,” John Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and a former member of the NASA Advisory Board, told Insider. “The starship is also to conduct orbital tests. Elon [Musk] are you going to swallow the bait and fly it? “
Branson’s launch by July 4th is “doable”
Virgin Galactic will be able to easily process Branson’s flight documents by July 4th, Nield said.
“It looks absolutely doable to me,” he said, although he stressed that he had nothing to do with the relationship between Virgin Galactic and the FAA, which licenses commercial rocket launches.
In order to operate Branson, Virgin Galactic may have to change its FAA license. The modification will allow the company to manage the “participants” as well as the crew members (in this case, the pilots and mission specialists). But Nield says the modification will be simple and quick if the data from the last flight does not reveal any major problems.
“The license change means: delete the fifth paragraph,” Nield said. “So it doesn’t really matter.”
Branson may even get a new role as a crew member – like a mission specialist, for example. Then Virgin Galactic may not have to change its license at all to operate it.
“In my opinion, nothing prevents Richard Branson from flying as a flight crew as well,” Nield said. “He is an employee of the company and they can assign him any responsibilities they want. This is not what the FAA does. It depends on the company. “
When asked about the report by Insider, an FAA spokesman declined to comment on whether Virgin Galactic is planning to launch next month. Instead, the agency indicated a change to the “member’s” license.
It is unclear how much Virgin Galactic will have to change or speed up its original plans to send Branson into space ahead of Bezos.
“If you’re in a hurry, there is always the option to cut corners, but the people who fly the flight have a pretty high incentive not to kill their boss,” Logsdon said.
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