“Congratulations to all of our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard and hard work to reach us so far,” he said during a live stream as the VSS Unity spacecraft returned to Spaceport America in New Mexico.
It reached an altitude of about 53 miles (85 kilometers) – beyond space, according to the United States – allowing passengers to experience the weight and admire the curvature of the Earth.
The journey went without drama and the touchdown occurred at 9:40 am. Mountain Time (1540 GMT), about one hour after takeoff.
The success of the mission means that Branson beat billionaire Jeff Bezos in the race to become the first tycoon to cross the final border on a ship built by a company he founded.
Earlier, a huge aircraft carrier took off and climbed to 50,000 feet before dropping the VSS Unity to complete the rest of the flight using its rocket engine.
The spacecraft carried two pilots and four passengers, including Branson.
The ship then returned to the atmosphere, dropped its flexible wings and returned to the runway.
A smiling Branson hugged loved ones after the trip.
“It’s a beautiful day to go into space,” the Briton wrote earlier in a tweet where he posted a video of himself cycling to the base and meeting with his co-workers, all Virgin employees.
He also posted a photo of himself standing in a kitchen with SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who came to show his support.
Several tourists traveled to the International Space Station in the 2000s, but with Russian rockets.
Branson’s official role is to evaluate the private astronaut’s experience to improve travel for prospective customers.
Branson, who founded the Virgin Group, which today has interests in everything from commercial aviation to gyms, is known for its appetite for adventure and has set world records in hot air ballooning and rowing.
“As a child, I wanted to go into space,” the 70-year-old wrote a few days before his trip.
He founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, but the dream almost ended in 2014 when a in-flight accident killed a pilot, significantly delaying the program.
Since then, VSS Unity has successfully reached the space three times, in 2018, 2019 – which included the first non-pilot crew member – and finally in May this year.
Photo: Twitter / Richard Branson
Sunday’s flight departed from Spaceport America, a huge base built in the Jornada del Muerto Desert, about 20 miles southeast of the nearest town, Truth or Consequences.
Largely funded by the state of New Mexico, Virgin Galactic is the main tenant.
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After Sunday, Virgin Galactic plans two more flights and after the start of regular commercial activities from the beginning of 2022. The ultimate goal is to make 400 flights a year.
About 600 tickets have already been sold to people from 60 different countries – including Hollywood celebrities – for prices ranging from $ 200,000 to $ 250,000.
And yet, according to Branson, “space belongs to all of us”, the opportunity for now remains the protection of the privileged.
“When we return, I will announce something very exciting to give more people the opportunity to become astronauts,” he promised.
The competition in the field of space tourism, whose forthcoming rise has been announced for years, started this month.
Bezos, the richest man in the world, is going to fly on July 20 with Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
Blue Origin published a graph on Friday of the ways in which the experience it offers is superior.
Highlights: The New Shepard climbs to over 60 miles at an altitude, surpassing the so-called Karman Line, the boundary of space according to the international convention.
Bezos himself wished Branson “good luck” in an Instagram post.