Richard Branson is about to send himself to space on board a Virgin Galactic space plane.
He will become the first of the billionaires who are building space tourism companies to take a flight in his own craft, beating Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. But the latter will not have to wait long – he is due to go to space himself on 20 July, atop one of his own Blue Origin spacecraft.
Mr Branson will leave from Virgin Galactic’s “Spaceport America” in the desert of New Mexico on Sunday morning. The full flight is expected to take about an hour, with a few minutes of weightlessness as the craft reaches its highest point.
Whether that really counts as going to space or just touching the edge of it is a matter of hot debate. Mr Branson will not cross the Kármán line – the widely accepted boundary where space is said to begin – something that Mr Bezos’s Blue Origin has pointed out publicly.
Follow all the latest on Mr Branson’s journey here.
Space travellers make their way to the launchpad
The crew and their tourists are on their way to the space plane, suggesting everything is going to plan and should be on track for launch.
The weather is also looking much better than it did overnight, so shouldn’t get in the way of today’s window.
Bad weather delays flight
Poor conditions overnight have delayed the launch time today. Everything will now get going at 3.30pm UK time.
This picture from Getty Images, taken last night, shows the threatening lightning over the spaceport.
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… to The Independent’s live coverage of Richard Branson’s trip to space, or at least the edge of it.