Richard Branson, the 70-year-old British billionaire who founded Virgin Galactic, is finally getting his trip to space on Sunday. Sir Richard became the first owner-astronaut to take part in a mission. “It’s a beautiful day to go to space,” Branson tweeted in the morning. The launch of Virgin Galactic was pushed back about 90 minutes from its original start time because weather conditions overnight at the spaceport resulted in a delay of the spacecraft leaving its hangar at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Cars drove Mr. Branson and his crewmates to the plane about an hour before the scheduled liftoff, and the plane lifted off the ground around 10:40 a.m. To get off the ground, Unity is carried by a larger plane to an altitude of about 50,000 feet. Virgin Galactic says it still has three more test flights to conduct, including the one on Sunday, before it can be ready for paying passengers. Branson wasn’t supposed to fly until later this summer. But he assigned himself to an earlier flight after Bezos announced plans to ride his own rocket ship into space from Texas on July 20. More than 600 people have already made reservations for a ride into space with Virgin Galactic. Tourists are expected to pay 250,000 US dollars (£180,000) for a spaceflight on Virgin Galactic, which includes four minutes of zero gravity.