Richard Branson, founder of the space tourism company Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE), plans to be abroad on a test flight of his company’s VSS Unity spaceship on July 11. That is nice days before his rival Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin plan to go to space, putting Branson ahead in a suborbital commercial space race.
Previously it appeared that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will be the first of his competitors to conduct a suborbital space flight, when he announced a test flight on July 20 a month ago. His brother, aviation pioneer Wally Funk, as well as an anonymous auction winner will join Bezos on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket ship.
Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, alongside Elon Musk’s SpaceX, are competing for market share in an emerging market for space tourism, offering well paying customers the experience of weightlessness and breathtaking views on the boundary of our atmosphere. Moreover, is commercial space travel expected to provide researchers with opportunities to test technology and experiment.
Although some perceive Branson’s scheduling as strategic thrust against Blue Origin, Branson has maintained that “both of us will wish each other well, and it really doesn’t matter whether one of us goes a few days before the other,” in a statement on Friday.
Despite sharing a similar goal, both companies differ in how they will launch customers into space. While Blue Origin uses a rocket to launch its passengers directly into space, Virgin Galactic launches a carrier aircraft of which the spaceship will then detach when reaching space.
What do you think? What company will win the commercial space race or will it be a win-win situation after all?