Virgin Galactic Reopens Space Tourism Ticket Sales

Virgin Galactic has reopened sales of its $450,000 tickets that provides a 90 minute flight to edge of space.

Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic venture made history in July 2021, when a debut flight from New Mexico carried Sir Richard and three fellow crewmembers, plus two pilots, to its maximum height of 53 miles above the Earth, which is high enough to reach NASA’s classification of ‘astronaut’.

That flight kick-started the space tourism industry, and beat the 11 minute flight of Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin, who rocketed to more than 65 miles above the planet, nine days after the Virgin Galactic flight.

Ticket sales

Virgin Galactic is seeking to begin commercial flights later this year, and is selling tickets last year starting at $450,000 (£325,000) per seat.

It already has 600 reservations from its first round of ticket sales costing $200,000 to $250,000, CNN reported, but now Virgin Galactic has reportedly said the $450,000 tickets will go back on sale 16 February.

It requires a $150,000 deposit.

Full payment is required before the flight itself.

So far Virgin Galactic has reportedly sold 100 tickets at the new $450,000 price point.

The venture aims to sell a total of 1,000 of these tickets, before it begins full commercial operations.

FAA issue

Virgin Galactic has had to endue a frustrating period when it could not sell tickets.

During its July flight with Sir Richard onboard, the space plane travelled outside its designated airspace for 41 seconds. The US Federal Aviation Administration then grounded future flights whilst it investigated the brief flight deviation.

At the time Virgin Galactic said the pilots had encountered unexpectedly high winds at high altitude and took the actions necessary to complete a safe climb into space and return to Earth.

The FAA review concluded on 18 September, and Virgin Galactic was given the all clear to resume flights.

But according to CNN, Virgin Galactic then announced it was delaying the resumption of commercial services, because of unrelated technology upgrades.

Spaceflights are not expected to restart until October 2022.

Meanwhile its rival, Blue Origin, has already launched three successful crewed missions for celebrities and paying customers.

Blue Origin however has not disclosed how much its customers are paying per ticket.

Different approaches

The Virgin Galactic space plane utilises a twin-fuselaged mothership, to carry the spaceplane and its passengers 50,000 feet in the air.

The Virgin Galactic spaceplane is a winged plane with a single rocket motor. It detaches from the mothership before it fires its main rocket, pushing it up to a maximum height of 53 miles above the Earth.

At the top of the flight path the vehicle is suspended in weightlessness for four minutes, allowing the passengers to enjoy panoramic views of the Earth as the spaceplane rotates and begins its glide down to earth.

Outer space is classified by the United States, the US Federal Aviation Administration, the US military and NASA as starting 50 miles above the earth’s surface.

But an international definition of space is known as the Kármán Line, an imaginary boundary 100 kilometers (62 miles) above mean sea level.

Blue Origin meanwhile utilises the more traditional rocket approach, on top of which is the passenger capsule.

The rocket after it detaches from the capsule, lands vertically on the launch pad.

At the peak of its flight path, Blue Origin passengers are weightless for about three minutes.

The New Shepard capsule then floats back down to earth thanks to its parachutes.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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