Virgin boss Richard Branson will be among the crew taking part in a Virgin Galactic test flight later this month.
The flight on SpaceShipTwo Unity is due to launch on 11 July, providing there are no weather or technical issues. It will be first flight to carry a full crew of two pilots and four “mission specialists”.
If the flight goes ahead, Branson will beat Amazon founder and fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by a few days. Bezos is due to take part in his own space flight on 20 July.
Virgin Galactic said Branson would be “be testing the private astronaut experience” during the voyage.
The entrepreneur will take part in the same training, preparation and flight as Virgin Galactic’s future passengers and will use his “observations from his flight training and spaceflight experience to enhance the journey for all future astronaut customers”.
“I truly believe that space belongs to all of us,” said Branson. “After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good.
“It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality.”
Flights on Virgin Galactic will cost $250,000 with more than 600 people already signing up for the trips, which are due to start in autumn 2021.