By News Desk with Inputs from various agencies.
Space tourism is now possible. Between 2005 and 2014, around 600 people had paid $200,000 to $250,000 for booking seats on Virgin’s spaceship. British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is restarting ticket sales beginning at $450,000 for space tourism.
The company, to cash in on the success of last month’s fully-crewed test flight, has nearly doubled the amount paid by people previously. Between 2005 and 2014, around 600 people had paid $200,000 to $250,000 for booking seats on Virgin’s spaceship.
“We are excited to announce the reopening of sales effective today,” said CEO Michael Colglazier in a statement, with first dibs going to people on a waiting list.
“As we endeavor to bring the wonder of space to a broad global population, we are delighted to open the door to an entirely new industry and consumer experience.”
Former chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic Holdings, George Whitesides, will fly to space on the aerospace company’s next test spaceflight.
Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Galactic, flew to space earlier this month, beating Amazon.com Inc’s Jeff Bezos to the final frontier.
Branson announced the news about Whitesides during a party in New Mexico on July 11, following his own spaceflight. Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA was present at the party and told CNBC that Branson said, “George will be leading our next flight.”
The next test flight will come in September and involve members of the Italian Air Force.
Branson, whose spaceflight marked a symbolic milestone for the venture he started 17 years ago, touted the mission as a precursor to a new era of space tourism. Bezos, along with three others including the world’s oldest space traveler and astronaut, Wally Funk, flew into space just days later, aboard his own space company Blue Origin’s rocket.
There will be one further test after the September mission, then the first commercial flights will take place in the third quarter of 2022, Colglazier said in an earnings call. The offerings for customers will include a single seat; multi-seats for couples, friends, or family; and a full-flight buyout.
Two free seats on an early flight are up for grabs in a prize draw, with registrations open until September 1. The spaceplane was originally designed to carry six crew, but last month’s flight, which was described as “fully-crewed,” had just four suggesting this is the current number.
Virgin’s space experience involves an air-launched spaceplane, VSS Unity, that takes off attached to the belly of a massive carrier plane from a runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
After gaining altitude, the spaceplane detaches from its mothership and ignites its rocket engine, ascending to beyond 50 miles (80 kilometers) above sea level. Passengers unbuckle and experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the plane glides back to the runway to land.
The company has come under fire for its carbon footprint, which is roughly equivalent to a transatlantic flight but for far fewer people. It has said it is examining the possibility of offsetting its emissions.