Virgin Galactic space launch LIVE – Richard Branson WINS battle with Elon Musk to become first billionaire in space

SIR Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space launch has won his battle to become 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 spacesuitaboard 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.

Read our Richard Branson live blog below for the latest news and updates…

  • Alice Fuller

    WHO WERE THE CREW?

    THE flight was piloted by David Mackay and Michael Masucci.

    As well as Richard Branson, three Virgin Galactic employees joined the flight – Beth Moses, Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla.

  • Alice Fuller

    MAKING DREAMS COME TRUE

    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."

  • Alice Fuller

    FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT HAILS 'HISTORIC FLIGHT'

    A FORMER NASA astronaut has hailed Richard Branson's historic space flight.

    Ret US Navy Capt Scott Kelly said: "Congratulations to @richardbranson & @virgingalactic on today’s historic test flight—launching a new era in space tourism!

    "The orbital perspective is real. Pushing boundaries for more people to experience it elevates humanity on Earth."

  • Alice Fuller

    MUSK CONGRATULATES BRANSON

    ELON Musk congratulated his space rival Richard Branson on winning the billionaire race to space.

    He tweeted in response to a video of the historic mission: "Congratulations, beautiful flight!"

  • Alice Fuller

    'IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT INTO WORDS'

    "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.

  • Alice Fuller

    'MORE MAGICAL THAN I EVER IMAGINED'

    SIR Richard Branson has said reaching the edge of space was "more magical than I ever imagined".

    The British billionaire said: "I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but going to space was more magical than I ever imagined."

  • Alice Fuller

    ELON MUSK BUYS VIRGIN SPACE TICKET

    Despite being billionaire space rivals, Elon Musk has bought a ticket on Sir Richard's Virgin spaceship.

    He paid a $10,000-dollar (£7,000) deposit to reserve a seat, but no flight date has yet been given.

  • Alice Fuller

    A STAR TREK WELL DONE

    THE actor who played Sulu in Star Trek has joined the thousands of people congratulating Richard Branson and his team on a successful space flight.

    George Takei said: "Congratulations, Richard Branson, on your successful flight today. The future of space tourism is now."

  • Alice Fuller

    'WELCOME TO THE DAWN OF A NEW SPACE AGE'

    AFTER landing back in New Mexico, Richard Branson said this is the beginning of a "new space age".

    He tweeted: "Welcome to the dawn of a new space age #Unity22 @virgingalactic."

  • Alice Fuller

    HOW HIGH DID BRANSON GO?

    RICHARD Branson and his five crewmates from is Virgin Galactic space tourism company reached an altitude of about 53 miles (88 kilometres).

    They experienced three to four minutes of weightlessness before safely gliding home to a runway landing.

    Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin company denotes the threshold of space at 62 miles (100 kilometres) above Earth – along with international aviation and aerospace federations.

    But NASA, the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and some astrophysicists consider the boundary between the atmosphere and space to begin 50 miles (80 kilometres) up.

  • Alice Fuller

    SPACE CHIEF CONGRATULATES BRANSON

    THE Chief of Space Operations for the US Space Force has congratulated Richard Branson on his historic space flight.

    Gen. Jay Raymond tweeted the billionaire after he safely touched back down to Earth.

    He said: "Congrats to @richardbranson & the entire team @virgingalactic!

    "Your years of hard work & dedication paid off today with a flawless flight to the edge of Space. #Unity22."

  • Patrick Joseph DUGGAN

    TOUCH DOWN

    THE Virgin craft has now touched down after Sir Richard experienced his dream of space travel.

    Sir Richard and his astronauts are due to be interviewed after their return to earth.

    Virgin is hoping to launch space tourism and sell tickets starting at £145,000.

    The Virgin spacecraft was launched into space today
  • Patrick Joseph DUGGAN

    'EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME'

    UNITY has reentered the earth's atmosphere and Sir Richard and the crew are floating back to their seats.

    The entrepreneur described it as "the experience of a lifetime".

    The spacecraft headed back to earth shortly after entering space.

  • Patrick Joseph DUGGAN

    SPACECRAFT DETACHES

    SIR Richard's spacecraft has detached from -and is heading towards space.

    The British billionaire is set to win his battle with Elon Musk to become the first billionaire in space.

    Earlier, spectators cheered as the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity took off at Spaceport America today.

  • Patrick Joseph DUGGAN

    UNITY TO DETACH

    DURING the 90-minute mission the Virgin Galactic will reach an altitude where the sky turns black.

    There was no countdown before Eve lifted off, but there will be a countdown from when Unity detaches from Eve.

    That is likely to happen at 4.20pm UK time.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    LIFT OFF!

    This is the moment Sir Richard Branson took off aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel bound for the edge of space.

    A massive carrier plane made a horizontal take-off from Space Port, New Mexico at around 8:40 am Mountain Time (1440 GMT) and will ascend for around an hour to an altitutude of 50,000 feet (15 kilometers).

    The mothership will then drop a rocket-powered spaceplane called VSS Unity, which will ignite its engine and ascend at Mach 3 beyond the 50 miles (80 kilometers) carrying two pilots and four passengers – including Branson. 

    Credit: AFP
  • Harvey Lindsay

    VIRGIN GALACTIC SPACE LAUNCH LIVE

    Branson and his Virgin Galactic crew have officially launched from New Mexico. 

    Watch our livestream below

  • Harvey Lindsay

    RICHARD BRANSON ARIVED AT THE SPACEPORT BY BICYCLE

    Business mogul Richard Branson arrived at the spaceport today by bicycle.

    Greeted by Virgin Galactic chief astronaut and passengers on today's flight, Beth Moses.

    She said: "Let's go to space, Richard!" 

  • Harvey Lindsay

    RICHARD BRANSON'S FLIGHT LAUNCH DELAYED BY 15 MINUTES

    Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier says the flight is expected to launch between 3:35 and 3:45 (BST).

    The flight is expected to be delayed by 15 minutes

    “This is an historic moment… make sure you’ve got a beverage.”

  • Harvey Lindsay

    RICHARD BRANSON THANKS ELON MUSK FOR HIS SUPPORT

    Taking to Twitter, Richard Branson thanked "good friend' Elon Musk for hissupport, as he gears up to fly into space with his Virgin Galactic crew.

  • Harvey Lindsay

    ASTRONAUT TIM PEAKE WISHES THE VIRGIN GALACTIC CREW A SUCCESSFUL FLIGHT

    Ahead of Richard Branson's first flight with his Virgin Galactic crew, astronaut Tim Peake gave his best wishes.

    "Wishing the team at @virgingalactic & @richardbranson a safe and successful flight to space today", he said.

  • Harvey Lindsay

    BRANSON PLANNING TO BEAT JEFF BEZOS TO SPACE

    Sir Richard‘s space tourism firm Virgin Galactic announced the space trip on July 1, 2021.

    The British mogul is planning to beat Jeff Bezos who will also be heading to space on July 20 on Blue Origin‘s New Shepherd spacecraft.

    The flight will be Virgin Galactic’s fourth test spaceflight and its first mission with a crew of four onboard.

  • Harvey Lindsay

    HOW SAFE IS IT?

    Virgin Galactic has flown its rocket planes 23 times, though only four of these have reached the edge of space.

    The spaceflights went without a hitch, according to Virgin Galactic. Tragically, the same cannot be said for all of its tests.

    In October 2014, a Virgin Galactic ship crashed, killing the co-pilot and leaving the pilot seriously injured.

    Witnessws described how the craft exploded in flight above the Mojave Desert in California before debris plummeted to the ground.

    It crashed after firing its rocket following a high-altitude drop from the
    Virgin Galactic mothership.

  • Harvey Lindsay

    VIRGIN GALACTIC DOES NOT USE A ROCKET TO LAUNCH INTO SPACE

    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.

  • Harvey Lindsay

    BRANSON PLANNING TO BEAT JEFF BEZOS TO SPACE

    Sir Richard's space tourism firm Virgin Galactic announced the space trip on July 1, 2021.

    The British mogul is planning to beat Jeff Bezos who will also be heading to space on July 20 on Blue Origin's New Shepherd spacecraft.

    The flight will be Virgin Galactic's fourth test spaceflight and its first mission with a crew of four onboard.

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