Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson has insisted that the billionaire space race is not a “contest” – just a day after he announced he would beat Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“I know it’s portrayed as a race, honestly I don’t think any of us see it that way,” Branson said on friday On Good Morning America.
Virgin Galactic announced Thursday that its next spaceflight test on July 11 will take Branson himself – surpassing Bezos, the world’s richest man, by nine days.
Bezos, who has a net worth of about $200 billion, announced last month that he and his brother will go to space on July 20 on Blue Origin’s first crewed flight.
But on Friday, Branson, who has a net worth of more than $7.5 billion, sought to downplay the specific timing of the announcements, as the two billionaires became the first industry titans to fly into space.
“We’re both doing something very different — the people who go up with us are going in a spacecraft — they launch from a beautiful space port in New Mexico and then Jeff has a different perspective,” Branson said. said.
“So we’re not really in direct competition. I have a lot of respect for what he’s doing and I know he has a lot of respect for what our amazing team is doing.”
Still, after Virgin Galactic’s announcement, Bezos’ Blue Origin couldn’t stop him from taking a shot at his opponent.
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith stressed in a statement that his company’s rocket travels slightly more than Virgin Galactic’s.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft passes a few kilometers above the internationally recognized space limit, the so-called Karman Line, which is located at an altitude of 100 kilometers above Earth’s mean sea level.
Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spacecraft, on the other hand, launches to its homeport in New Mexico — called Spaceport America — with the help of a carrier craft, before igniting its rocket and accelerating to three times the speed of sound. .
It reaches an altitude of about 80 kilometres, where it spends a few minutes in microgravity and gives travelers a chance to enjoy the view.
“We wish him a great and safe flight, but he’s not flying above the Karman line and it’s a very different experience,” said Smith of Blue Origin. Told Acesparks.
By American standards, though, both craft make it into space. The US Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration reduced the range of space to an altitude of about 50 miles.
Virgin Galactic’s shares rose nearly 25 percent after the company announced Branson’s flight, but the stock gave up most of those gains on Friday.