Strong take-up for Virgin Galactic’s ‘One Small Step’ initiative

400+ Future Astronauts from 44 countries outlay deposit to enter space

More than 400 wannabe astronauts from 44 countries have forked out deposits to be in the next tranche of space travellers with Virgin Galactic. The aerospace company said it was encouraged by the response to the ‘One Small Step’ initiative which aimed to get more bodies in space for a nominal US$1,000 refundable deposit.

Expressions of interest in flight reservations jumped by around 1,200 as of 29 April 2020, a 15% increase since 23 February 2020.

While the cost of the next wave of seats into space with Virgin Galactic has yet to be set, the “strong interest” would net the company over US$100 million of potential future revenue upon full ticket payment.

SpaceShipTwo Unity completes a runway landing at Spaceport America, New Mexico © 2020 Virgin Galactic

“We believe this response to our ‘One Small Step’ initiative demonstrates the appetite for our product offering among new potential Future Astronauts, complementing the strength and ongoing support of our existing customer base of 600 Future Astronauts who already have reservations on our spaceflights,” said Virgin Galactic Chief Executive George Whitesides.

Despite the optimism, Virgin Galactic reported a net loss of US$60 million in the first quarter of 2020, an improvement, however, on the US$73 million loss in Q4 of 2019.

Whitesides continued: “The COVID-19 outbreak led to an unprecedented situation for companies and individuals across the world, but I am encouraged by the commitment displayed by our team in helping to support relief efforts while making program progress. We remain focused on our strategic goals and our path to commercial launch.”

SpaceShipTwo Unity flying free in the New Mexico airspace © 2020 Virgin Galactic

The company said the full impact of the pandemic on Virgin Galactic’s full-year financial results and test flight program will depend on future developments, including the duration and scope of COVID-19, it’s timing, potential future stay-at-home orders and the pace at which the firm can resume “normal course operations”.

Last Friday Virgin Galactic successfully completed its maiden SpaceShipTwo test flight from Spaceport America after relocating from Mojave earlier this year.

SpaceShipTwo Unity takes to the skies for its first flight flight from New Mexico © 2020 Virgin Galactic

The flight took off from the Spaceport America runway, with VSS Unity attached to the carrier aircraft, VMS Eve. The vehicles climbed to an altitude of 50,000 feet before Unity was released, at which point VSS Unity flew freely for the first time in New Mexico airspace. The spaceship achieved a glide speed of Mach 0.70 and completed multiple test-points, before touching back down smoothly for a runway landing at Spaceport America.

Preparation for the next flight has now begun.

Lead image: SpaceshipTwo Unity flying free in the New Mexico Airspace for the first time
© 2020 Virgin Galactic

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