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The Wall Street Journal 13 July, 2021 - 04:30am 43 views

What time does Richard Branson take off?

Branson's trip began in dramatic fashion as Virgin's twin-fuselage carrier jet — with the VSS Unity rocket-powered spaceplane bolted under its wing — lifted away from the company's Spaceport America launch site near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, at 8:40 a.m. local time (10:40 a.m. EDT). CBS NewsRichard Branson and Virgin Galactic complete successful space flight

Who flew with Richard Branson?

Two pilots, Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci, flew the vehicle. The late physicist Stephen Hawking gave the space plane its name, "VSS Unity." The plane was secured to the bottom of a mothership, a double-fuselage aircraft called "VMS Eve," after Branson's mother. Business InsiderVirgin Galactic just flew billionaire founder Richard Branson and 3 crewmates to the edge of space

Who are the astronauts on Virgin Galactic?

Who were the crew members aboard the flight? The pilots are David Mackay and Michael Masucci. In addition to Mr. Branson, three Virgin Galactic employees joined the flight to evaluate how the experience will be for future paying customers. The New York TimesHighlights From Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Flight

Did Richard Branson really go to space?

Yes, the billionaire co-founder of Virgin Galactic woke up intending to go to space today, and yes, he went. Along with two pilots and three other passengers, Branson lifted off aboard his VSS Unity. TIMEWhy Richard Branson's Spaceflight Is a Very Big Deal

And it appeared to do just that, zooming to an altitude just above 50 miles and giving Branson and his five crewmates about three minutes of weightlessness and spectacular views of Earth before plunging back into the atmosphere for a spiraling descent to touchdown at Virgin's New Mexico launch site.

"I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid but honestly, nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space," Branson, 70, said after landing, at a rare loss for words. "It was just magical. ... I'm just taking it all in, it's unreal."

The flight effectively upstaged Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who plans a sub-orbital spaceflight of his own aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft on July 20 as the two companies compete for passengers in the emerging commercial space marketplace.

Bezos complimented Branson and his team after landing, posting a note to Instagram saying "congratulations on the flight. Can't wait to join the club!"

Branson's trip began in dramatic fashion as Virgin's twin-fuselage carrier jet — with the VSS Unity rocket-powered spaceplane bolted under its wing — lifted away from the company's Spaceport America launch site near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, at 8:40 a.m. local time (10:40 a.m. EDT).

Joining the globe-trotting billionaire aboard Unity were pilots David Mackay and Michael Masucci, along with Virgin astronaut trainer Beth Moses, flight engineer Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla, the company's vice president of government relations.

With a throng of reporters and a global audience following along on YouTube and across Virgin's social media channels, the Virgin mothership VMS Eve slowly climbed to an altitude of about 45,000 feet and then, after a final round of safety checks, released Unity high above the New Mexico desert.

Seconds later, Mackay and Masucci, both veterans of earlier test flights to space, ignited Unity's hybrid rocket motor, slamming the crew back in their seats as the spacecraft shot forward and pitched up onto a near-vertical trajectory.

Burning rubberized solid propellant with liquid nitrous oxide, Unity's hybrid motor fired for about one minute, accelerating the craft to about three times the speed of sound before shutting down.

The spaceplane continued zooming upward along a ballistic trajectory, giving Branson and company a chance to briefly unstrap, float about the cabin and marvel at the spectacular view as Unity reached its maximum altitude of 53.5 miles — three-and-a-half miles above what NASA and the FAA consider the "boundary" of space.

Live video from inside the spacecraft showed Branson and his crewmates floating free of their seats and enjoying the sensation of weightlessness, not to mention the out-of-this-world view.

"To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars," Branson said while his cremates cavorted in microgravity. "Now I'm an adult, in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults, looking down to our beautiful, beautiful Earth.

"To the next generation of dreamers: If we can do this, just imagine what you can do!" he said, before floating out of his seat. 

A few moments later, the spacecraft then began the long plunge back to Earth.

Using an innovation pioneered by aircraft designer Burt Rutan, Unity's wing and tail fins are designed to pivot upward 60 degrees once out of the atmosphere, giving the spaceplane the aerodynamics of a badminton shuttlecock, ensuring a belly-down re-entry.

Mackay and Masucci rotated the wing upward shortly after the rocket motor shut down and left it in the "feathered" orientation until it descended to around 55,000 feet when it was pivoted back parallel to the fuselage, turning Unity into a glider.

From there, the pilots guided the spaceplane through a spiraling descent, lined up on Spaceport America's 12,000-foot-long runway and settled to a picture-perfect landing, closing out a flight that lasted 59 minutes from takeoff to touchdown.

Mike Moses, Virgin president for space flight and safety, said an initial look at the data showed Unity came through its latest mission in great shape.

"We've looked at the data, we've done our quick engineering walk around (and) the ship looks pristine, no issues whatsoever," he said. "We'll take our time, do all the detailed inspections, and then we'll figure out when we're ready to go again. But ship looked perfect."

NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Space Force agree that space effectively begins at an altitude of 50 miles where the atmosphere is so thin that wings, rudders and other aerodynamic surfaces no longer have any effect.

As a result, Branson, Bennett and Bandla are now considered full-fledged Virgin astronauts, a distinction granted to Mackay, Masucci and Moses after earlier test flights.

Sunday's launching marked Unity's 22nd test flight, its fourth trip to space, Virgin's first with a six-person crew on board and the first for Branson, who beat Bezos into space by nine days.

Virgin Galactic and Bezos' Blue Origin both plan to launch passengers on flights to the edge of space and back and both are in the final stages of test flights before beginning commercial operations.

Branson effectively blindsided Bezos, scheduling Sunday's flight just ahead of the Amazon founder's, which had already been announced. But Branson insisted again Sunday that he doesn't view the competition as a "race" for space.

"I've said this so many times, it really wasn't a race," Branson said. "We're just delighted that everything went so fantastically well. We wish Jeff the absolute best and the people who are going up with him during his flight."

Virgin plans two more test flights, but company officials hope to begin launching paying customers, at $250,000 or more per seat, in early 2022. Flush with success Sunday, Branson announced a charity sweepstakes benefitting Space for Humanity, saying two winners will be selected to join one of the initial commercial flights.

Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."

Copyright © 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.

Read full article at The Wall Street Journal

The space race between Branson and Bezos is about business and branding | TheHill

The Hill 13 July, 2021 - 07:35am

Is the “space race” between Branson and Bezos a little more than two wealthy boys competing for who has the best rocket ship? Certainly, bragging rights are a part of the motivation. However, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are also engaged in the serious task of starting a suborbital tourism business. The narrative that the two upcoming flights constitute a “race” actually benefits both space entrepreneurs.

Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have been trying to start a suborbital tourism business for years, the former since 2004. The two upcoming flights will be a public display that, if you have enough money, you too can fly into space, albeit for a few minutes. How many people will be willing to pony up and whether they will be numerous enough to support two suborbital tourism companies is anyone’s guess.

Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin will not just consist of billionaires selling joy rides to millionaires. A market exists for SpaceShipTwo and New Shepard flying science experiments. Sirisha Bandla, the vice president of Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin Galactic, will fly with Branson and will evaluate the human-tended research experience during the flight.

Bezos is using the first crewed flight of the New Shepard as an opportunity to rebrand himself. He is most famous for founding Amazon.com, the largest online retail outlet on the planet. Amazon has been a boon for customers by making the retail experience simple and convenient. Bezos has transformed the retail industry and has become fabulously wealthy doing so. He has also been slammed by some as a monopolist who treats some of his employees like Roman galley slaves. According to a recent story in the New York Post, some have compared Bezos to a Bond villain.

Bezos has started to rebrand his image. He has stepped down as CEO of Amazon, presumably to devote his full attention to Blue Origin. Bezos knows from the example of his main rival, Elon Musk, that billionaires who build and fly rocket ships are considered kind of cool.

Next, Bezos invited a woman named Wally Funk to fly with him on the New Shepard when it takes off on July 20. Sixty years ago, Funk was part of a group of female pilots loosely referred to as the “Mercury 13.” The women pilots were subjected to the same kind of testing that male NASA astronauts underwent in the early 1960s. Some of them passed with scores that exceeded those of the male astronauts.

An urban legend has arisen about the Mercury 13 female astronauts being cruelly denied space flights they were clearly qualified for out of misogynism at NASA. In fact, as retired space journalist James Oberg pointed out, such was never the case. NASA at the time required that its astronauts be test pilots with experience in supersonic aircraft, which none of the Mercury 13 were.

Nevertheless, the narrative is that Funk, at the age of 82, is finally getting the space flight she was “denied” so long ago, thanks to the beneficence of Bezos. Bezos, a capitalist who is seen by some as an exploiter, is now a space entrepreneur, soon to be an astronaut and a champion of women.

Musk may have the last laugh. From the private orbital tourism business to the Starship now undergoing testing in Boca Chica, Texas, SpaceX is far ahead of anything Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin hope to accomplish. The next Americans to land on the moon will likely ride to the lunar surface on a SpaceX rocket. Indeed, for now, Bezos and Branson are fighting for second place in the great commercial space race.

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See moment Richard Branson rockets into space

CNN 13 July, 2021 - 07:35am

Amazing video shows billionaire Richard Branson floating on the edge of space

The US Sun 13 July, 2021 - 03:07am

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.

SIR Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space launch has won his battle with Elon Musk to become the first billionaire in space.

The rocket ship launched the 70-year-old and his crew from Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert.

Tropical storms had delayed the launch before setting off at around 3.30pm.

Branson - known as 'Astronaut 001' - soared into space in his blue spacesuit aboard Virgin Space Ship Unity, a 62ft rocket-powered space plane nestled between the twin hulls of Mother Ship Eve, which propelled them to an altitude of around 55 miles.

WHAT IS THE AIM OF VIRGIN GALACTIC?

If all goes to plan with the commercial rollout, space fans will be launched more than 50 miles above Earth – a point at which Nasa define travellers as astronauts.

Passengers will ride aboard SpaceShipTwo, a spaceplane designed to carry six passengers and two pilots.

It is carried aloft by a large aeroplane before breaking away and zooming to an altitude of about 62 miles.

In 2016, the late Professor Stephen Hawking unveiled Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo craft, called VSS Unity, after the first SpaceShipTwo craft VSS Enterprise crashed during tests in 2014.

Virgin Galactic is up against fierce competition in the private space race from firms such as Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The launch was hailed a “landmark moment” for billionaire businessman Richard Branson, as well as the whole commercial space industry.

He hailed the “experience of a lifetime” after flying to the edge of space aboard Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed flight.

WHY DID RICHARD BRANSON SUE THE NHS?

Branson’s company Virgin Care sued the NHS after it lost out on an £82million contract to provide children’s health services in Surrey in 2016.

The company cited concerns over “serious flaws” in the way the contract was awarded.

The NHS settled the legal dispute in November 2017 with an out of court settlement for an undisclosed sum.

NHS Surrey Downs clinical commissioning group (CCG) initially disclosed that its liability in the case was £328,000 in its October public finance papers, the Health Service Journal reported at the time.

Virgin Care’s co-founder, Dr Vivienne McVey, said the money from the NHS settlement went into developing services for patients.

“Virgin Care has never made a profit and the Virgin Group has actually invested more than £75 million across the UK in people and technology, supporting doctors and nurses in their jobs and significantly reducing waiting lists,” she said.

WATCH RICHARD BRANSON FLOATING IN SPACE DURING HIS FIRST VIRGIN GALACTIC FLIGHT

WHAT IS RICHARD BRANSON'S NET WORTH?

Sir Richard, 69, is said to have a net worth of around £3.8billion and is a self-made businessman who launched his company Virgin almost 50 years ago.

The Virgin boss was born in Blackheath, London, in 1950 and started his first venture, Virgin Records, in 1972, which he later sold to EMI in 1992 for £500million.

The dad-of-two has started up some very lucrative companies along the way, including Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984 and Virgin Trains in 1993.

He also has a keen interest in space, and launched space tourism company Virgin Galactic in 2004, with the hope of offering future trips to space for £153,000 a go.

Sir Richard has also created Virgin Media, Virgin Racing and Virgin Comics.

Richard Branson announced he was “thrilled” to reveal a Virgin Galactic partnership to “open space for everyone”.

The billionaire has teamed up with Omaze which supports Space For Humanity.

He said: “Every charitable donation goes to support Space For Humanity and you’ll be entered into the Omaze sweepstake for the chance to win two seats aboard one of the first commercial Virgin Galactic spaceflights, and a guided tour of Spaceport America given by yours truly.

“Imagine a world where people of all ages and backgrounds, from anywhere, of any gender, of any ethnicity have equal access to space.

“They will in turn, inspire us all back here on Earth.

“If you’ve ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true.”

WHEN DID RICHARD BRANSON’S SPACESHIP FIRST LAUNCH?

After years of fine-tuning, Branson successfully reached space for the first time on December 13, 2018.

SpaceShipTwo’s Unity plane flew higher than ever before in a test that marked a huge step toward Sir Richard’s goal of firing paying customers into space this year.

The flight, launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 3.15pm GMT, soared to an altitude of 50 miles above Earth’s surface strapped to a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo.

It successfully separated from its mother ship around 45 minutes after liftoff and engaged its rocket thrusters, reaching speeds of Mach 2.9.

SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor burnt for 60 seconds before shutting off, carrying the spaceplane to a top altitude of 51.4 miles, according to Virgin Galactic.

The feat marked the first time the company had reached the boundary of space as defined by the US Air Force and other US agencies.

WHAT IS THE AIM OF VIRGIN GALACTIC?

If all goes to plan with the commercial rollout, space fans will be launched more than 50 miles above Earth – a point at which Nasa define travellers as astronauts.

Passengers will ride aboard SpaceShipTwo, a spaceplane designed to carry six passengers and two pilots.

It is carried aloft by a large aeroplane before breaking away and zooming to an altitude of about 62 miles.

In 2016, the late Professor Stephen Hawking unveiled Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo craft, called VSS Unity, after the first SpaceShipTwo craft VSS Enterprise crashed during tests in 2014.

Virgin Galactic is up against fierce competition in the private space race from firms such as Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Unlike most spaceflight companies, Virgin Galactic does not use a rocket to reach space.

Instead, its VSS Unity rocket plane ascends toward the heavens strapped to an enormous carrier plane called White Knight Two.

At around 50,000ft above Earth’s surface, Unity detaches from its mothership. For comparison, commercial airliners fly at 30,000ft.

Once separated, Unity fires up its rocket engines and flies at a near-vertical angle into suborbital space.

‘DAWN OF A NEW SPACE AGE’

Sir Richard Branson has declared “the dawn of a new space age” after successfully blasting off on a groundbreaking space mission.

The 70-year-old made history by beating Elon Musk to become the first billionaire in space, before safely returning to earth in his Virgin Galactic rocket plane.

The British entrepreneur described the hour-long space flight as “the experience of a lifetime” and “more magical than I had ever imagined”.

He added: “How you feel when you look down on Earth is impossible to put into words, it’s just indescribable beauty. I can’t wait for you all to get up there.”

He congratulated his “wonderful” team for their “17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far”.

The launch was hailed a “landmark moment” for billionaire businessman Richard Branson, as well as the whole commercial space industry.

He hailed the “experience of a lifetime” after flying to the edge of space aboard Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed flight.

WHY DID RICHARD BRANSON SUE THE NHS?

Branson’s company Virgin Care sued the NHS after it lost out on an £82million contract to provide children’s health services in Surrey in 2016.

The company cited concerns over “serious flaws” in the way the contract was awarded.

The NHS settled the legal dispute in November 2017 with an out of court settlement for an undisclosed sum.

NHS Surrey Downs clinical commissioning group (CCG) initially disclosed that its liability in the case was £328,000 in its October public finance papers, the Health Service Journal reported at the time.

Virgin Care’s co-founder, Dr Vivienne McVey, said the money from the NHS settlement went into developing services for patients.

“Virgin Care has never made a profit and the Virgin Group has actually invested more than £75 million across the UK in people and technology, supporting doctors and nurses in their jobs and significantly reducing waiting lists,” she said.

WHAT IS RICHARD BRANSON NET WORTH?

Sir Richard, 69, is said to have a net worth of around £3.8billion and is a self-made businessman who launched his company Virgin almost 50 years ago.

The Virgin boss was born in Blackheath, London, in 1950 and started his first venture, Virgin Records, in 1972, which he later sold to EMI in 1992 for £500million.

The dad-of-two has started up some very lucrative companies along the way, including Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984 and Virgin Trains in 1993.

He also has a keen interest in space, and launched space tourism company Virgin Galactic in 2004, with the hope of offering future trips to space for £153,000 a go.

Sir Richard has also created Virgin Media, Virgin Racing and Virgin Comics.

‘DAWN OF A NEW SPACE AGE’

Sir Richard Branson has declared “the dawn of a new space age” after successfully blasting off on a groundbreaking space mission.

The 70-year-old made history by beating Elon Musk to become the first billionaire in space, before safely returning to earth in his Virgin Galactic rocket plane.

The British entrepreneur described the hour-long space flight as “the experience of a lifetime” and “more magical than I had ever imagined”.

He added: “How you feel when you look down on Earth is impossible to put into words, it’s just indescribable beauty. I can’t wait for you all to get up there.”

He congratulated his “wonderful” team for their “17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far”.

WHEN DID RICHARD BRANSON’S SPACESHIP FIRST LAUNCH?

After years of fine-tuning, Branson successfully reached space for the first time on December 13, 2018.

SpaceShipTwo’s Unity plane flew higher than ever before in a test that marked a huge step toward Sir Richard’s goal of firing paying customers into space this year.

The flight, launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 3.15pm GMT, soared to an altitude of 50 miles above Earth’s surface strapped to a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo.

It successfully separated from its mother ship around 45 minutes after liftoff and engaged its rocket thrusters, reaching speeds of Mach 2.9.

SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor burnt for 60 seconds before shutting off, carrying the spaceplane to a top altitude of 51.4 miles, according to Virgin Galactic.

The feat marked the first time the company had reached the boundary of space as defined by the US Air Force and other US agencies.

“How you feel when you look down on Earth is impossible to put into words, it’s just indescribable beauty,” Richard Branson said after touching back down on earth.

“I can’t wait for you all to get up there,” he added.

Unlike most spaceflight companies, Virgin Galactic does not use a rocket to reach space.

Instead, its VSS Unity rocket plane ascends toward the heavens strapped to an enormous carrier plane called White Knight Two.

At around 50,000ft above Earth’s surface, Unity detaches from its mothership. For comparison, commercial airliners fly at 30,000ft.

Once separated, Unity fires up its rocket engines and flies at a near-vertical angle into suborbital space.

VIRGIN GALACTIC VSS UNITY VS BLUE ORIGIN NEW SHEPARD

Singer Khalid debuted his latest single ‘New Normal’ at the Richard Branson space flight celebration.

The song is not set for official release until July 21, but he gave viewers a historic performance after Sir Richard himself made history as the first billionaire in space.

He was introduced by American comedian and presenter Stephen Colbert.

Richard Branson tonight announced he was “thrilled” to reveal a Virgin Galactic partnership to “open space for everyone”.

The billionaire has teamed up with Omaze which supports Space For Humanity.

He said: “Every charitable donation goes to support Space For Humanity and you’ll be entered into the Omaze sweepstake for the chance to win two seats aboard one of the first commercial Virgin Galactic spaceflights, and a guided tour of Spaceport America given by yours truly.

“Imagine a world where people of all ages and backgrounds, from anywhere, of any gender, of any ethnicity have equal access to space.

“They will in turn, inspire us all back here on Earth.

“If you’ve ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true.”

Richard Branson announced he was “thrilled” to reveal a Virgin Galactic partnership to “open space for everyone”.

The billionaire has teamed up with Omaze which supports Space For Humanity.

He said: “Every charitable donation goes to support Space For Humanity and you’ll be entered into the Omaze sweepstake for the chance to win two seats aboard one of the first commercial Virgin Galactic spaceflights, and a guided tour of Spaceport America given by yours truly.

“Imagine a world where people of all ages and backgrounds, from anywhere, of any gender, of any ethnicity have equal access to space.

“They will in turn, inspire us all back here on Earth.

“If you’ve ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true.”

Sirisha Bandla's family reacts to her becoming the second India -born woman in space

WION 10 July, 2021 - 08:15pm

Following her interest in space, Bandla joined Virgin Galactic in 2015 after completing her studies. She has now travelled to space along with Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group

Sirisha Bandla has become the second India-born, third Indian-American and third Indian-origin woman to go in space. Ahead of her journey as part of the billionaire Richard Branson's team, her grandfather said that he is "overwhelmed with joy".

On July 11, Sirisha Bandla, 33, a native of Guntur district of India's southern Andhra Pradesh state, became a part of a test flight on Virgin Galactic's spacecraft that was the first fully crewed spacecraft to travel beyond the atmosphere of our planet.

As the race to usher in a new era of commercial space travel begins to heat up, a successful flight by British billionaire Richard Branson aboard Virgin's VSS Unity spaceplane became a pivotal moment in the field of space travel.

Welcome Sirisha Bandla, Colin Bennett, and Beth Moses — our expert crew members joining @richardbranson on our #Unity22 test flight. Watch LIVE this Sunday at https://t.co/5UalYT7Hjb. @SirishaBandla @VGChiefTrainer pic.twitter.com/F4ZrGnH3vo

Following her interest in space, Bandla joined Virgin Galactic in 2015 after completing her studies.

A part of Unity22's amazing crew and as a part of a company dedicated to making space accessible to all, Bandla said in a tweet that she is "honored to be a part of the amazing crew."

I am so incredibly honored to be a part of the amazing crew of #Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all. https://t.co/sPrYy1styc

She had always been fascinated by space, according to her grandfather, Dr Ragaiah, a retired scientist.

He said she was very much intrigued by the sky and the unknown. "Looking at the sky and space", she was always fascinated about discovering what exists there.

Before the flight, he said, "I am very happy and overwhelmed with joy. My second granddaughter, she is going to space."

In 2003, Kalpana Chawla, the only female astronaut born in India, died in an accident on board the Columbia Space Shuttle. 

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