For the first time in years, Virgin Galactic is reopening ticket sales, allowing anyone who can afford it to reserve a seat on the company’s rocket-powered suborbital space plane for $450,000, a significant increase over what tickets were previously sold for.
After more than a decade of pledging to be among the first to test out the technology, Virgin Galactic (SPCE) founder Richard Branson took a supersonic joy ride aboard the space plane, and the company now says it’s ready to begin commercial operations in 2022.
Virgin Galactic says it will have three options: single-seat reservations (starting at $450,000), multi-seat reservations for families and friends, and the option to buy out all six seats on a flight for a “modest premium,” according to CEO Michael Colglazier during a conference call with investors on Thursday. According to him, seats for “microgravity research and professional astronaut training” will cost $600,000.
The tickets will be offered first to a “list of early hand-raisers,” or people who have recently joined the company’s “Spacefarer Community” by putting down a $1,000 deposit.
According to Aleanna Crane, Virgin Galactic’s vice president of communications, about 1,000 people have put up the money for such a deposit.
Virgin Galactic had previously announced that two seats on SpaceShipTwo would be raffled off to people who donated to Space For Humanity, a non-profit whose stated goal is to “democratize space.” During an investor call on Thursday, the company announced that more than 125,000 people from 190 countries had donated.
Those who choose to pay the $450,000 for a seat may have to wait a long time for their turn. More than 600 people are already on the waiting list for a chance to fly to the edge of space, having paid between $200,000 and $250,000 for tickets when Virgin Galactic first sold them nearly a decade ago.
The development and testing program for SpaceShipTwo, as the company’s space plane is known, has taken far longer than the company had anticipated. One of the company’s co-pilots was killed in a test flight accident in 2014.
Since then, Virgin Galactic has redesigned the plane, partnered with a new manufacturer, and tested a new SpaceShipTwo on four successful flights to the edge of space, including Branson’s, which took off last month.
The company’s decision to reopen ticket sales coincided with the release of its quarterly financial report, which revealed a net loss of more than $94 million. Since going public in 2019, Virgin Galactic has been losing money every quarter, but executives are hoping to change that as the company transitions from its testing program to regular operations next year.
Customers will have an hour-long total experience with SpaceShipTwo, which will include a few minutes above what the US government considers to be the limit of space. Customers will be transported to altitudes of 40,000 to 50,000 feet in a space plane attached to a massive winged mothership. SpaceShipTwo is then released from the mothership, fires up its rocket motor, and swoops directly upward as it roars past three times the speed of sound and reaches more than 50 miles above the Earth’s surface after cruising around for about half an hour. Before the plane returns to a runway landing, passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and views of the Earth.