Giant Leap initiative entices 1,000 aspiring astronauts to Virgin Galactic

Second spaceship to rollout in coming weeks, Branson's test flight delayed

© Virgin Galactic 2020

Virgin Galactic had around 1,000 wannabe astronauts enrol in its “One Small Step” program offered in 2020, generating potential future revenue upwards of US$250 million for the space tourism venture.

The publicly-listed company offered aspiring astronauts the chance to register and be allocated a priority and firm reservation with Virgin Galactic once the next tranche of seats were released, for just a $1,000 deposit.

The ‘Giant Leap’ initiative ran from late February until the year-ended 31 December 2020. In its first three months the concept lured more than 400 individuals.

Initial seats with Virgin Galactic were about US$250,000 per person. The next round of seats is certain to be more expensive.

SpaceShip | © Virgin Galactic 2020

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The success of the One Small Step program was highlighted in Virgin Galactic’s 2020 Financial Results.

Virgin Galactic said its total Future Astronauts program remains at approximately 600 people and confirmed the planned rollout of the second Spaceship is expected before the end of March 2021.

Further, the space travel company said it is now targeting a May 2021 date for its next rocket-powered spaceflight from Spaceport America. The next two future spaceflights will also operate from the New Mexico hub, one of which will carry Virgin founder, Sir Richard Branson. Last year Virgin Galactic had forecast the billionaire would make take his first flight on VSS Unity by Q1 2021.

Virgin Galactic fleet | © Virgin Galactic 2020

“We accomplished several significant milestones during 2020 despite the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic.

“Looking ahead, we’re focused on completing our test flight program, expanding our fleet of spaceships and motherships, and developing our unique and transformative customer experience. I am excited about the talent we’re bringing on to our leadership team and the investments we’re making in the business, both of which will position us well to scale for future growth,” Colglazier added.

A third spacecraft will follow at a later time. Beyond those three vehicles, Virgin Galactic will transition its assembly processes to a new ‘Delta Class’ spaceship that can be built faster and will require less maintenance, Bloomberg reported Colglazier saying.

Once fully operational, Virgin Galactic envisages operating up to three daily flights from its spaceports.

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