If you were hoping to buy a ticket to space on one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space planes, you probably wish you bought one seven years ago.
Virgin Galactic announced on Thursday that it was resuming ticket sales on its flights, which rise above 50 miles and offer about four minutes of freefall and a view of Earth against the darkness of space. .
The price: at least $ 450,000 per seat.
That’s some $ 200,000 more than the company billed in 2014 before halting sales after its first spacecraft, VSS Enterprise, crashed on a test flight. About 600 people have tickets from the first round of sales.
And if you haven’t yet deposited a refundable $ 1,000 deposit, you’ll have to wait even longer. Virgin Galactic will initially make tickets available to the 1,000 people who have been able to reserve a place on the waiting list for the resumption of ticket sales.
Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, admitted on a call with industry analysts as the company announced its quarterly earnings that a higher price would lead to increased revenue and be popular with shareholders. But, he said, space travel “still offers such value that the people who experience this journey with us can’t help but recommend it.”
While the tickets of previous customers are now relative bargains, they have been waiting for years longer than they expected. Over the years, Mr. Branson has said time and again that he expects commercial flights to begin shortly.
Mr. Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, and he originally expected commercial flights to start by 2008. But the development of the rocket plane proved to be much more difficult and slower than foreseen. Mr. Branson finally got his flight in July as one of six people on a test flight.
The next flight is scheduled for the end of September. It is still a test flight, but it will carry paying customers – the Italian Air Force purchased the flight for two of its researchers to conduct experiments.
Virgin Galactic will then pause operations to upgrade the space plane, named VSS Unity, and the carrier plane that will take it off to an altitude of about 45,000 feet before releasing it for its short flight into the space.
In mid-2022, Virgin Galactic is planning another test flight to check for upgrades and then begin commercial operations, Colglazier said. From there, Virgin Galactic hopes to increase the pace of flights with the entry into service of additional space planes.
Even at the exorbitant price, Mr. Colglazier said he expected loyal customers. “We believe this experience is so unique and compelling that it will result in multiple repeat experiences with friends and family in multiple spaceports around the world,” he said.
Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos and a competitor to Virgin Galactic in the suborbital space tourism market, recently started selling tickets on its New Shepard spacecraft, which launches like a rocket instead of an airplane. and climbs a little higher, to over 62 miles. For its first flight, which carried Mr. Bezos, Blue Origin auctioned off a seat, for $ 28 million, which went to Mr. Bezos’ space charity, Club for the Future.
Blue Origin started selling seats to people who participated in the auction, but did not disclose the current price of their tickets or the number of people who purchased tickets.