Update Sunday, 8:48 a.m.:
According to Virgin Galactic, the flight has been delayed 90 minutes due to overnight weather. It’s now scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
It’s the weekend after Independence Day, and the Brits are maybe, finally, getting us back for that whole Revolutionary War thing. Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, an English business magnate extraordinaire and Buckingham Palace knight, will be launching himself into outer space nine days ahead of American billionaire and Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos.
Branson is set to blast off this Sunday, July 11, around 9 a.m. EST, courtesy of his own Virgin Galactic spaceflight company and its VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo.
When Branson revealed his surprise plans this month—mere weeks after Bezos—we got the mega-billionaire space race we never asked for. Branson, for his part, insists his ambitious timing has nothing to do with beating Bezos’s Blue Origin to the suborbital cosmos, but he’s still a man who has tried multiple times to break various world records (e.g., fastest crossing of the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle, which he holds; attempted fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing, which concluded with a helicopter rescue).
Nevertheless, his flight promises to be a landmark moment for commercial space travel, and the whole world has a front-row seat.
The launch—which is occurring, prophetically, near the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico—will be broadcast globally. You can watch the livestream on Virgin Galactic’s YouTube channel. We’ve also embedded it below.
You would be forgiven for thinking billionaires in space are becoming commonplace, but it’s worth remembering that Branson, like Bezos, will be taking real risks when he rockets to the edge of space at 2,400 mph, suspends briefly in microgravity, and then carefully glides back down to the runway (the whole process takes about an hour). We’re wishing him a safe flight!