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Virgin Galactic slightly delays launch of Richard Branson and crew due to bad weather

Virgin Galactic has slightly delayed the planned launch of its Unity 22 mission with billionaire founder Richard Branson today (July 11) due to some bad weather in New Mexico. 

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

You can watch Virgin Galactic's launch live here and on the Space.com 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

"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. 

Related: Meet the crew launching on Virgin Galactic's 1st fully crewed flight

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson (third from right) will launch on the company's first fully crewed flight on July 11, 2021 as part of a six-person crew. They are (from left): Pilot Dave Mackay; Coplin Bennet, lead operations engineer; Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor; Branson; Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations; and pilot Michael Masucci.  (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

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. 

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.

Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.

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