LAS CRUCES – Commercial spaceflight company Virgin Galactic announced Tuesday that ticket sales for flights to space would open to the general public on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at a price of $450,000.
If that’s a bit steep, don’t worry: A deposit of $150,000 will secure your flight, with the balance due before takeoff.
Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said the company had targeted 1,000 reservations for the start of regular commercial service later in 2022, with its VSS Unity rocket plane and aircraft carrier VMS Eve currently undergoing maintenance after successful crewed test flights over Spaceport America in southern New Mexico in 2021.
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Previously, the company has reported approximately 600 reservations for tickets committed at prices between $200,000 and $250,000, and in November it said it had sold about 100 more.
The company is in need of revenue after repeated delays in beginning paid commercial service. Virgin Galactic has signed contracts to fly research payloads as well as passengers, including with federal space agency NASA, but the company has not flown to space since its celebrated July takeoff.
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Tuesday’s announcement was accompanied by a new logo depicting the distinctive shape of VMS Unity in silhouette, rather than the familiar iris of the company’s founder, Richard Branson. (Virgin staff have previously been issued business cards with their own irises as the printed background.)
Branson, who took his first flight to space from Spaceport America last July, has sold well over $1 billion in his interest in the company since it went public in 2019, including 10.4 million shares sold weeks after his space flight for $300 million.
The company promises customers, or “future astronauts,” and guests luxury accommodations while training for the pressures of spaceflight, in which the Unity takes off on a carrier aircraft, is released from an altitude of about 50,000 feet and engages a rocket motor to reach a speed of Mach 3 for its climb toward an apogee exceeding 50 miles above sea level. Passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of the Earth from above before the craft descends for a glide landing back at the spaceport.
During the current session in New Mexico, a bipartisan bill that would include Virgin Galactic tickets in gross receipts taxes died in the commission. The measure was vigorously opposed by the spaceport’s anchor tenant, which said the bill would impose “a tax on a company bringing business and jobs to the state.”
Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, email@example.com or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.