July 11 (Reuters) – Flamboyant British entrepreneur Richard Branson is set to fly to space on a Sunday test flight by his Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc (SPCE.N), beating fellow aspiring billionaire astronaut and Amazon.com (AMZN.O) founder Jeff Bezos by about a week.
The launch of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity rocket plane over the New Mexico desert will mark the space tourism company’s first test mission beyond Earth’s atmosphere to carry a full complement of space travelers.
From building a conglomerate to flying into space, here is a summary of Branson’s life and business:
1950: Born on July 18 in the United Kingdom to Eve, an air hostess with British South American Airways and Ted Branson, an ex-cavalry officer
1960s: Starts first business venture at 15, a student magazine, drops out of Stowe school
1970: Starts first Virgin company, a mail-order business. Virgin Group now operates more than 40 companies across five business sectors and five continents
1973: Launches the Virgin Records label that will go on to represent the Sex Pistols, the Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson, the Smashing Pumpkins and the Spice Girls
1978: Buys Necker Island in the Caribbean for $180,000 on the condition that he would build a resort within four years
1984: Launches Virgin Atlantic airlines
1985: Makes his first attempt to enter the record books: tries to make the fastest-ever boat crossing of the Atlantic, but it capsizes 140 miles (225.31 km) off the British coast
1992: Sells Virgin Records to Thorn EMI for $1 billion
1998: Publishes first autobiography, “Losing My Virginity,” posing nude on front page of the Sun tabloid to promote it
1999: Launches Virgin Mobile phone service in the UK, which subsequently expanded to Australia, the United States and Canada
2000: Receives a knighthood for services to entrepreneurship, rolls out Virgin Cars, Virgin Student, Virginmoney.com, Virgin Wines and Virgin Energy businesses
2004: Launches the first commercial space tourism business – Virgin Galactic
2013: Virgin Galactic’s six-passenger ship, called VSS Enterprise, makes its first powered flight
2014: Virgin Galactic’s passenger spaceship crashes during a test flight, killing one pilot and injuring the other
2021: Virgin Galactic receives approval from the U.S. aviation safety regulator to fly people to space. It announces that Branson, now worth about $6 billion according to Forbes, will travel to the edge of space on the company’s test flight on July 11
Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Daniel Wallis
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