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Billionaire Richard Branson heads for space in his own ship

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (AP) — Thrill-seeking billionaire Richard Branson strapped in and set off Sunday on his boldest journey but — a bid to achieve area aboard his personal winged rocket ship.

A profitable flight would vault the practically 71-year-old Branson previous fellow billionaire and rival Jeff Bezos, who’s planning to fly to area in a craft of his personal 9 days from now.

With a crowd of greater than 500 folks watching, a twin-fuselage plane with Branson’s area airplane hooked up beneath took off within the first stage of the flight. Aboard have been Branson and 5 crewmates from his Virgin Galactic space-tourism firm.

The plan was for the area airplane to detach from the mom ship at an altitude of about 8 1/2 miles (13 kilometers), fireplace its rocket engine after which pierce the sting of area at about 55 miles (88 kilometers) up. After a couple of minutes of weightlessness for the crew, the area airplane was imagined to glide to a runway touchdown.

The temporary, up-and-down flight was meant as a confidence-boosting plug for Virgin Galactic, which plans to start out taking paying prospects on joyrides subsequent 12 months.

“It is a fantastic day to go to area,” Branson tweeted within the morning, posting a photograph of himself with fellow billionaire and space-tourism rival Elon Musk.

Earlier than climbing aboard, the flamboyant, London-born Branson signed the astronaut log e book and wisecracked: “The title’s Branson. Sir Richard Branson. Astronaut Double-oh one. License to thrill.”

Branson wasn’t imagined to fly till later this summer time. However he assigned himself to an earlier flight after Bezos introduced plans to experience his personal rocket ship into area from Texas on July 20.

Greater than 600 folks have already made reservations for a experience into area with Virgin Galactic, based in 2004.

Bezos’ Blue Origin has but to open ticket gross sales and even announce costs, however late final week boasted through Twitter that it will take purchasers greater and provide larger home windows.

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Blue Origin and Musk’s SpaceX each launch capsules atop rockets, as an alternative of utilizing an air-launched, resusable area plan.

Virgin Galactic made three earlier check flights into area with a crew.

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Dunn reported from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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