Virgin Galactic will send a rocket into space later on Thursday, hoping for it to “fly higher and faster”.

Sir Richard Branson’s space startup hopes that the SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket ship will reach further than 80km, which space is said to start.

“Overall the goal of this flight is to fly higher and faster than previous flights. We plan to burn the rocket motor for longer than we ever have in flight before, but not to its full duration. At the end stages of the rocket burn in the thin air of the mesosphere and with the speeds that we expect to achieve, additional altitude is added rapidly,” said the company in a blog post. 

Branson founded the startup in 2004, shortly after Elon Musk founded SpaceX and Jeff Bezos created Blue Origin. The three billionaires are currently in a race to send the first fee-paying passengers into space.

In September this year, Musk revealed the first private passenger that will fly around the moon with SpaceX.

Yusaku Maezawa is a Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon who will pay for himself and between six and eight others to take part in the week-long trip planned for 2023. Maezawa, 42, has said that he wants his guests for the lunar orbit “to see the moon up close, and the Earth in full view, and create work to reflect their experience.”

The company plans to “burn the rocket motor for durations which will see our pilots and spaceship reach a space altitude for the first time. Although this could happen as soon as the next flight, the nature of flight test means that it may take us a little longer to get to that milestone.”

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides told reporters Wednesday: “This is test flight. You are going to be watching a no-kidding test flight with all of the novelty and excitement and risk that goes along with a real test flight.”

“We’re obviously hoping for a good day tomorrow but the risk of a not good day is still possible,” he added.