Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson teased in a special edition of his LinkedIn newsletter Thursday that he is ready to turn "dream into reality" with Sunday's suborbital spaceflight aboard the aerospace company's VSS Unity spacecraft.
"I’ve wanted to go to space ever since I was a young boy and watched the moon landings from our black and white television set. When commercial spaceflights did not look likely for my generation, I registered the name Virgin Galactic with the hope of creating a company that could make it happen," Branson explained Thursday. "17 years later and I’m thrilled that Virgin Galactic is at the vanguard of this new space age that I’ve been dreaming about for so long."
According to Virgin Galactic, Sunday's Unity 22 mission will be "testing the private astronaut experience." One of the main objectives will be to evaluate the "commercial customer cabin with a full crew," including the cabin environment, seat comfort, the weightless experience, and the views of Earth that the spaceship delivers, in order to ensure "every moment of the astronaut’s journey maximizes the wonder and awe created by space travel.
The VSS Unity and its mothership VMS Eve – named after Branson's mother – will climb together to an altitude just below 50,000 feet before the spaceship is released and its rocket ignites, sending the craft up "a little over Mach 3" to approximately 300,000 feet above Earth.
"The planet peers back at you through the ship’s 17 windows as you see home for the first time," Virgin Galactic notes on its website. "16 cameras throughout the cabin record every moment of the experience in HD."
Upon reentry, the VSS Unity's wings raise 60 degrees before lowering again after the ship descends into the atmosphere and the pilot lands on the runway – as exhibited in a successful test at the end of May following delays.
Branson says his role in Sunday's mission will be to "validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin."
He will be joined Virgin Galactic chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, government affairs vice president Sirisha Bandla and pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci. Pilots C.J. Sturckow and Kelly Latimer will fly VMS Eve.
"At Virgin Galactic, we believe that the answers to many of the challenges we face in sustaining life on our beautiful but fragile planet, lie in making better use of space. From space, we are able to look with a new perspective both outward and back. From space it is clear that there is much more that unites than divides us," Branson continued. "However, it’s one thing to dream about making space more accessible to all; it’s quite another turn that dream into reality. This has been an enormous and an incredible team effort, and I’m so grateful for everyone who has helped build this unique program."
Virgin Galactic's flight, which will be livestreamed on LinkedIn beginning Sunday at 9 a.m., comes nine days ahead of Blue Origin's first crewed flight aboard its New Shepard rocket on July 20, which will include founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old female aerospace pioneer Mary Wallace Funk, and a mystery auction winner who paid $28 million.
Following Sunday's mission, Branson says he will make an announcement to "give more people the chance to become an astronaut."
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Shares of Virgin Galactic are up about 3% during Thursday's trading session as of the time of publication.
Fox Business' Julia Musto contributed to this report