Virgin Galactic to launch founder Richard Branson into space on July 11

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Virgin Galactic announced Thursday plans to launch its billionaire founder Richard Branson into space on July 11.

Why it matters: The date is nine days before Jeff Bezos, founder of Virgin Galactic competitor Blue Origin, is set to take off for space.

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  • Branson will journey to space in Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spacecraft along with two pilots and three other mission specialists as part of the company's fourth crewed mission.

What they're saying: "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," Branson said in a press release Thursday.

  • "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," he added.

The big picture: Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are attempting to open suborbital space flights to laypeople.

  • The Federal Aviation Administration gave Virgin Galactic approval to carry passengers on future spaceflights in late June.

  • VSS Unity is a spaceplane that uses a mothership to carry it high in the atmosphere where it is dropped and rockets into the edge of space for a few minutes before gliding back to Earth for a runway landing.

Go deeper: Another billionaire space battle is brewing

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