Virgin Galactic introduces the Unity 22 crew

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Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson is set to become the world’s first billionaire to reach space, 16 years after starting his space tourism venture. Weather permitting, Virgin Galactic is pencilled in to blast off from New Mexico’s Spaceport America on Sunday, July 11.

The Virgin Galactic launch was announced earlier this month with the aim of beating Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to the finish line.

The former Amazon CEO is also due to fly to space this month and his company has not taken kindly to being upstaged.

Sir Richard will fly aboard the SpaceShipTwo spaceplane, VSS Unity.

The spacecraft will carry its crew of four flight specialists and two pilots to an altitude of about 56 miles where they will experience about four minutes of weightlessness.

And the good news is you can watch the launch live online and from the comfort of your home.

How to watch the Virgin Galactic launch this Sunday:

Courtesy of Virgin Galactic, you can watch the mission in the embedded video above.

The company will stream the flight from start to finish on YouTube, allowing you to – at least partially – experience the thrills of spaceflight.

Virgin Galactic said: “Join us July 11 for our first fully crewed rocket-powered test flight, and the beginning of a new space age.

“Aboard #Unity22 will be our team of two pilots and four mission specialists, including Sir Richard Branson.

“They will put our Future Astronaut spaceflight experience to a final test, while giving the world a preview of the life-changing experience.”

The live stream will kick off tomorrow at off at 2pm BST (9am EDT/7am MDT/6am PST).

Based on previous test flights, the VSS Unity is expected to launch sometime after that.

The rocket-powered spacecraft will first be carried high into the atmosphere by the VMS Eve aircraft.

After reaching an altitude of at least 10 miles (15km), Unity will detach and its engines will kick in.

The rocket motor will push the spacecraft to an altitude of about 56 miles (90km) where the passengers will experience weightlessness.

At the same time, the VMS Eve will circle back to Spaceport America and await the VSS Unity’s return.

According to Virgin Galactic, the primary focus of the test flight is to assess the spacecraft’s cabin and “private astronaut” experience.

Once the flight is completed, the company’s teams will inspect and review the spacecraft before its next mission.

Sir Richard said ahead of the flight: “I truly believe that space belongs to all of us.

“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.

“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.

“As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”

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