Richard Branson is pulling out the big guns for his first trip to space … as in Stephen Colbert, who’s hosting the live stream of Virgin Galactic’s first space flight with its boss onboard.

Branson’s company is launching its SpaceShipTwo — dubbed the V.S.S. Unity — into sub-orbital space Sunday morning from Spaceport America, New Mexico … and we’ll be streaming it here. The launch is set for 7:30 AM PT.

If all goes as planned, the British tycoon will become the first billionaire in space … just edging out Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who’s scheduled to make a similar flight on July 20, aboard his Blue Origin spacecraft.

The launch should be pretty spectacular. Unity will get a boost of sorts … it will be attached to a specially designed airplane that takes off from a traditional runway, and carries Unity about 9 miles up. At that point, Unity will separate from the plane and fire rocket engines to reach an altitude of 55 miles.

David Mackay and Michael Masucci will pilot Unity through the mission, while Branson and 3 other Virgin Galactic employees evaluate the weightless experience … which is expected to last only about 5 minutes. After that, the ship returns to Earth, much like NASA’s space shuttles — gliding to a runway landing.

The whole mission’s expected to take about 2 and a half hours.

Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 with the intent of leading so-called space tourism. The idea is to start taking paying passengers up to experience zero gravity while getting to see Earth from the edge of space.

In addition to Colbert hosting, Branson lined up Khalid to perform once the crew lands safely. Grab your coffee and a muffin … the show launch should be pretty amazing.

Stay tuned

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