The space tourism company originally planned to launch Branson and a crew of five on a suborbital spaceflight at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), when their SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity and its carrier plane VMS Eve were to take off from Spaceport America about 55 miles (88 kilometers) north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. But stormy weather overnight delayed the rollout of the combined vehicles earlier today.
The mission will now take off around 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT), when Virgin Galactic will begin livestreaming the launch in a webcast hosted by The Late Show's Stephen Colbert.
"Overnight weather delayed the start of flight preparations, but we are on track to fly today with a newly scheduled time," Virgin Galactic wrote in a Twitter update.
Virgin Galactic's Unity 22 flight, as its name suggests, is the 22nd test flight of the reusable SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity. The mission will be the fourth spaceflight for the space plane and the first fully crewed flight of the vehicle.
Launching into space with Branson will be three other mission specialists: 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. VSS Unity will be piloted by the company's chief pilot Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, with C.J. Sturckow and Kelly Latimer flying the VMS Eve carrier plane.
Unity is expected to launch Branson and his crew to an altitude of just over 50 miles (80 km), give them four minutes of weightlessness and then return to Earth to make a runway landing at Spaceport America. The entire flight, from takeoff to landing, will last about 90 minutes.
Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 with the goal of creating a private spaceliner to fly people into space. SpaceShipTwo can currently carry eight people to space, two pilots and six passengers. The company aims to begin passenger flights in 2022, with tickets selling for $250,000 per seat.
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