Virgin Galactic seats skyrocket in price

Commercial spaceflights now projected to begin Q3 2022

Seats aboard Richard Branson’s spaceship have reopened for sale in the past week, skyrocketing in price.

Some 600 ‘Future Astronauts’ who initially booked in the first waves of seat sales with Virgin Galactic paid US$250,000 to secure their spot. But sales have been frozen since December 2018 when VSS Unity made its first suborbital spaceflight.

Now, a month after Branson himself joined Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed flight into space (and fourth-to-date), tickets have been released for sale again at nearly double the original cost, starting at US$450,000.

Last week Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said the aerospace company had made “meaningful progress towards commencing commercial service in 2022” following two successful spaceflights from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The latter flight – dubbed Unity 22 – on 11 July, with Branson strapped in, garnered “an extraordinary global media and consumer response,” Colglazier added.

Richard Branson in space on 11 July 2021 | Credit: Virgin Galactic

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“We created a cultural moment. We saw incredible global engagement, with viewership coming from over 65 countries. Millions of space enthusiasts around the planet shared a glimpse into the journey the Virgin Galactic future astronauts can expect, and they loved it,” he told investors.

“Leveraging the surge in consumer interest following the Unity 22 flight, we are excited to announce the reopening of sales effective today, beginning with our Spacefarer community.

“As we endeavour to bring the wonder of space to a broad global population, we are delighted to open the door to an entirely new industry and consumer experience,” he said.

Virgin Galactic is now offering the private astronaut market three different space seat options. Either; a single seat; a multi-seat couples/friends/family package; and a full-flight buy out.

Unity 22 Mission specialists | Credit: Virgin Galactic

Sales will initially open to the Company’s list of early hand-raisers, prioritising the Spacefarer Community, who will be given first opportunity to reserve their place in space.

Virgin Galactic’s ‘Giant Leap’ initiative that was offered throughout most of 2020, rounded up around 1,000 new wannabe Astronauts to the program’s waiting list, for a refundable deposit of US$1,000.

A follow-on priority list will be opened to customers interested in reserving future spaceflights, the company said.

Virgin Galactic’s next rocket-powered spaceflight, Unity 23, has been earmarked for a window in late-September 2021. That flight will be a revenue-generating flight conducted in partnership with the Italian Air Force.

Following spaceflight Unity 23, the launch vehicle VMS Eve will return to The Spaceship Company’s HQ in Mojave, California. Whilst there, Eve will undergo a series of upgrades, including strengthening a number of structural components, that will enable the craft to operate 100 times between major inspections, rather than the current 10.

Colglazier said Eve would likely return to Spaceport America mid-2022, before flying another fully crewed test flight, and then shift to full commercial operations in the third quarter of 2022, if all goes well, Space.com reported.

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