Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson's company announced that its next test flight will be July 11 and its founder will be among the six people on board on Thursday evening.
The winged rocket ship will mount from New Mexico and the first one to carry a full crew of company employees.
Until Wednesday, Branson declined to say on his ride into space because of restrictions placed on him by his publicly traded company. But, he stated that he was “fit and healthy” to fly as soon as his engineers give him the go.
The news came just hours after Blue Origin said Jeff Bezos will be accompanied by a female aerospace pioneer into space on July 20.
Jeff Bezos chose July 20 as his West Texas launch date and it is the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. He assigned himself on board just a month ago.
Amazon's founder will be on Blue Origin's debut launch with people on board, accompanied by his brother.
Virgin Galactic launches its spacecraft from an aircraft reaching an altitude of roughly 55 miles (88 kilometers). Blue Origin launches its New Shepard rocket from the ground, with an altitude about 66 miles (106 kilometers).
Both of these heights are considered the edge of space. Parallely, Elon Musk's SpaceX launches its space shuttle both crew and cargo into orbit around Earth.
All three private space companies are planning to take paying customers into space. SpaceX will be the first private flight coming up in September.
Virgin Galactic’s rocket will glides to a landing on a runway, like NASA’s old space shuttles did with a pair of pilots in charge. While, the Blue Origin’s automated spacecraft parachute to the desert floor, similar to how NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules.
Funk will become the oldest person to launch into space at age 82, when Blue Origin takes its turn.
Blue Origin is yet to announce ticket prices or when the public might strap into the spacious six-seat spacecraft. Its New Shepard rocket is named after Alan Shepard who was the first American in space.
Virgin Galactic plans for three more test flights before taking up customers. Branson said that after his other company Virgin Orbit launched a batch of satellites as it is important for his customers to see him ride his rocket ship first before they mount on board.