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SYFY WIRE Richard Branson

Richard Branson sets Virgin Galactic launch date ahead of Jeff Bezos, but he'll still just be the 3rd billionaire in space

By Vanessa Armstrong
Richard Branson

Space. The final frontier...if you’re a billionaire.

Yes, there’s been much galactic ballyhoo in the media lately about billionaire Jeff Bezos taking to the stars onboard Blue Origin’s first crewed space mission coming up on July 20. But apparently the news made it through the billionaire chain, because now fellow billionaire Richard Branson has decided to beat Bezos to it.

Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic, announced the news with a dramatic trailer introducing the crew of the Unity 22 mission.

Check it out:

"I’ve always been a dreamer," Branson shared via Twitter. "My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars. On July 11, it’s time to turn that dream into a reality aboard the next @VirginGalactic spaceflight."

Branson — who will be Astronaut 001, of course — will be on board to test the customer experience (and presumably to beat Jeff Bezos to space, as well). The mission — Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed rocket test — blasts off on July 11, aboard the company’s VSS Unity (though Virgin recently revealed plans for their next-generation spaceship, the VSS Imagine).

While it might appear that Branson and Bezos are one-upping each other like kids on a schoolyard in order to get into space first, neither of them will be the first billionaire to do so. At least two other billionaires have already blasted into orbit — early Microsoft employee Charles Simonyi and fire-breathing Cirque Du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberté. Both forked over a lot of dough to travel to the International Space Station (Simonyi twice!) on the Russian Soyuz via Space Adventures.

Whoever gets there “first” (come on, Jeffrey, if you put your back into it we bet you can beat Branson!), one thing is clear: a new space age where billionaires rush to the stars is upon us.