Sir Richard Branson is aiming to beat billionaire rival Jeff Bezos into space by just nine days after setting a launch date for his Virgin Galactic rocket ship.
The entrepreneur plans to join as a passenger on VSS Unity as early as 11 July, subject to weather and technical checks.
The journey to the edge of space will be the 22nd test flight for the rocket and the company’s fourth crewed space flight.
It will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four passengers. Three Virgin Galactic executives will be on board alongside Branson.
“After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good,” Branson said in a statement.
“It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality. As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”
The move comes a week after the Federal Aviation Authority granted Virgin Galactic a licence for commercial spaceflight.
It could also deal a blow to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has set 20 July as the target launch date for a flight on the New Shepard rocket.
Bezos will be joined by famous aviator Wally Flunk, who will become the oldest person ever to travel to space, as well as a mystery person who paid $28m (£20m) for a seat on the flight.