If you were hoping to buy a ticket to space on one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceplanes, you probably wish you had bought one seven years ago.
On Thursday, Virgin Galactic announced it was resuming ticket sales for its flights, which top 80 miles and offer about four minutes of free fall and views of Earth against the darkness of space.
The price: a minimum of $450,000 per seat.
That’s about $200,000 more than what the company charged in 2014 before suspending sales after the crash of its first spaceplane, VSS Enterprise, during a test flight. About 600 people have tickets from the previous round of sales.
And if you haven’t made a $1,000 refundable deposit yet, you’ll have to wait even longer. Virgin Galactic will first make tickets available to the 1,000 people who have been able to reserve a spot on the waiting list before ticket sales resume.
Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier acknowledged during a meeting with industry analysts when the company announced its quarterly results that the higher price would lead to higher revenues and satisfy shareholders. But, he said, the journey to space “still offers such great value that the people who are on this journey with us can’t help but recommend it.”
While previous customers’ tickets are now relative bargains, they’ve been waiting for years longer than they anticipated. Over the years, Mr. Branson had said repeatedly that he expected commercial flights to begin soon.
Mr Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 and originally expected commercial flights to begin in 2008. But the development of the rocket plane turned out to be much more difficult and slower than planned. 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’s still a test flight, but it will carry paying customers – the Italian Air Force bought the flight for two of its researchers to conduct experiments.
Virgin Galactic will then pause operations for upgrades to the spaceplane, called VSS Unity, and to the carrier plane that will lift it off the ground to an altitude of about 45,000 feet before releasing it for its short flight into space.
In mid-2022, Virgin Galactic plans another test flight to verify the upgrades and then begin commercial operations, Colglazier said. From there, Virgin Galactic hopes to increase the pace of flights with additional spaceplanes entering service.
Even at the sky-high price, Mr. Colglazier that he expected repeat customers. “We believe this experience is so unique and immersive that it will provide multiple replay experiences with friends and family across multiple spaceports around the world,” he said.
Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos and Virgin Galactic’s competitor in the sub-orbital space tourism market, recently began selling tickets for its New Shepard spacecraft, which launches like a rocket rather than an airplane and launches an airplane. goes a little higher, to over 62 miles. For its maiden flight, carrying Mr. Bezos, Blue Origin auctioned off one seat for $28 million, which went to Mr. Bezos’ space-focused charity, Club for the Future.
Blue Origin has started selling seats to people who have entered the auction, but has not disclosed the current ticket price or how many people have bought tickets.