Factbox: Richard Branson: Daredevil Billionaire Entrepreneur Set To Fly To Space

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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.

– Reuters

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