Billionaire Richard Branson rode a bike to Virgin Galactic's Unity 22 launch site ahead of his big spaceflight

Editor's note: This story previously stated that Richard Branson rode his bike to Spaceport America on Sunday morning (July 11), the day of his spaceflight. That's not correct. Video showing him arriving at the spaceport on a bicycle was captured on a different date, and the commentator on Virgin Galactic's launch webcast who said it was recorded on Sunday was mistaken. "The footage of Sir Richard Branson shown during the event today [July 11] was prerecorded and misidentified in the broadcast. We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused," Virgin Galactic representatives said in a statement emailed to

Virgin Galactic's billionaire founder Richard Branson decided to bike to the launch pad at Spaceport America ahead of his long-awaited trip to space.

A new video from Virgin Galactic shows Branson moving past the headquarters and pulling up to the launch area of VSS Unity, situated about 55 miles (88 kilometers) north of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

"The name's Branson, Sir Richard Branson," Branson said as he signed Virgin Galactic's flight logbook. "Astronaut 001 with a license to thrill."

You can watch Virgin Galactic's launch live here and on the homepage, as well as directly from the spaceflight company's website and YouTube page

Related: How to watch Virgin Galactic launch Richard Branson to space
More: What to know about Virgin Galactic's 22 launch

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson rides a bike to Spaceport America ahead of his launch on the Unity 22 mission on July 11, 2021. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

In the video, Branson cheerfully parks the bike, hands it off to a staff member and exchanges excited hugs with the rest of the Unity 22 passengers: Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic's chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, Virgin Galactic lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, the vice president of government affairs and research operations at the company. 

Their spacecraft, VSS Unity, will be piloted by Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, with C.J. Sturckow and Kelly Latimer piloting the carrier ship, VMS Eve. The launch of SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity and its carrier plane, VMS Eve, were delayed 90 minutes by bad weather.

The 70-year-old Branson has been wanting to fly in space ever since watching the Apollo 11 crew land on the moon in 1969. Back then, of course, only governments were able to afford the cost of launching technology. Several decades of advances in computers, materials and business processes have now made it possible for several companies (like Branson's) to start thinking of offering spaceflights.

That said, it's been a long journey for Branson. He founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 to make a private spaceliner to fly paying passengers into space and it has taken nearly two decades of test flights and dealing with various issues, including a fatal test flight in 2014, to get to the launch pad today.

The company's current flagship, SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, has a maximum capacity of eight people, including two pilots and six passengers. The company aims to begin launching customers in 2022, with tickets selling for $250,000 apiece. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: