Virgin Galactic, boosted by the success of a July 11 sub-orbital test flight on the company’s winged rocket plane with founder Richard Branson, reopened ticket sales Thursday for space flights starting at $450,000 per seat.
However, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier stated that commercial flights will not begin until the third quarter of 2022, following two additional test flights of the company’s VSS Unity spaceplane and extensive upgrades to Virgin Galactic’s Eve carrier jet to improve durability and turnaround times between flights.
While commercial operations will begin several months later than anticipated, the company’s results from earlier two piloted test flights, including Branson’s July 11 trip to space, indicate that Virgin Galactic is close to “completing our test flight program and launching commercial passenger service in ’22,” Colglazier said.
“And as we advance towards that goal, we are excited to announce today that we will immediately open ticket sales to our significant list of early hand-raisers, prioritizing our spacefarer community who, as promised, will be given the first opportunity to reserve their place to space,” he added.
Virgin has established a “purposeful range of product offerings in order to satisfy the different ways people want to share this experience,” he explained.
“For the private astronaut flights, our products will include a single-seat, a multi-seat couples, families, and friends package and a full-flight buyout,” he said. “Prices for this next phase of private astronaut sales will begin at $450,000 per seat. Microgravity research and professional astronaut training flights remain priced at $600,000 on a per-seat equivalent basis.”
Over 600 space enthusiasts paid down payments for flights far earlier in the program, when tickets were estimated to cost around $250,000. The prices announced Thursday are likely to be limited to new clients.
“We are not just watching history be made; we are making it happen together,” Virgin tweeted. “Thank you for joining us on this journey into the next era of space travel. We invite you to visit our website to register for updates and future ticket information.”
Virgin intends to launch its next flight, Unity 23, in late September, transporting a complement of Italian Air Force personnel before suspending operations for several months to increase the Eve carrier jet’s durability and turnaround time between flights. Simultaneously, the company intends to begin flight testing a second spacecraft, the VSS Imagine.