Virgin Galactic has this week launched a new ‘NXTGEN Astronaut’ program, appearing to strategically target an audience of those who had previously registered interest in the space program with the publically listed company.
“At Virgin Galactic, we are opening access to space – and we believe you have what it takes to step forward and become a Virgin Galactic NXTGEN Astronaut,” wannabe astronauts were told in an email.
The advantage for ‘NXTGEN Astronauts’ is they’ll skip the queue to gain “priority access” to the next available space flights with Virgin Galactic, which are currently selling for US$450,000 a pop. Those on the list will have access to the tickets before they are made publicly available.
Other spruiked benefits of the new program will be access to the Virgin Galactic Master Class Series, which offers an insider’s view of the operation and interactive content from Spaceline experts. Virgin Galactic lists other perks of the program include access to its “revolutionary spaceflight technology with expert engineers and rocket scientists”, education on astronaut readiness and training experiences, tours of Spaceport America where the company operates from, and more.
There are four Master Classes that members of NXTGEN Astronaut will experience. Arguably, the major drawcard would be meeting Test Pilot Mike ‘Sooch’ Masucci and Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses in Master Class three.
The NXTGEN Astronaut membership fee is US$600 per person which grants members to immediate access to the Virgin Galactic NXTGEN Astronaut community.
The new program’s debut comes five weeks after Virgin Galactic completed its sixth space mission in six months and 10th to date. However, a question mark lingers over when the next spaceflight will take flight, after Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, told employees last month the company was laying off nearly one-fifth of its staff and suspending future flights for at least 18 months – pushing out the timeline to the next flight until at least mid-2025 – in order to save money for its new, larger Delta-class space vehicles.
The Delta-class spaceships will carry up to six passengers, compared to four on the current vehicle, VS Unity.