Sir Richard Branson has won the billionaire space race. 

The mega-rich founder of the Virgin empire has beat rival Jeff Bezos to reach space aboard his own winged rocket ship.

The space plane took off, detached from its mother ship at an altitude of about 13 kilometres and fired its engine to reach the edge of space, in a trip lasting just over an hour in total.

“I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth,” Sir Richard said in a video from space.

“We’re here to make space more accessible to all… welcome to the dawn of a new space age.”

Mr Bezos congratulated his rival after the flight landed.

“Congratulations on the flight,” he said. 

“Can’t wait to join the club!”

Mr Bezos plans to ride his own rocket into space on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Sir Richard was not meant to be on his Virgin Atlantic Airways flight until later this year, but he assigned himself to an earlier flight when he found out Mr Bezos was going to go first. 

Virgin Galactic has over 600 reservations from would-be space tourists, each ready to pay about $250,000 for their tickets. Mr Bezos’ Blue Origin is waiting for the Amazon founder’s flight before announcing its ticket prices.