Virgin Galactic joins SpaceX, Blue Origin in space

In what could be a new “pay now, launch later” use case ready for take-off, Virgin Galactic is open for consumer business starting Wednesday, February 16, with tickets starting at just $450,000.

The struggling space arm of Virgin Atlantic Airways said in an announcement on Tuesday February 15: “Ticket sales will be open to the general public from February 16, offering the opportunity to purchase one of the first bookings of spaceflight and to ensure membership in the unique community of future astronauts.

Incidentally, Range Rover has created an “Astronaut Edition” available only to those who fly with Virgin Galactic. Price tags hover around $145,000. He does not fly. Here is a video.

As it goes, Virgin Galactic’s $450,000 open rate for a zero-gravity suborbital experience is the new budget carrier for space tourism. Recall that Justin Sun, founder of the blockchain platform Tron, offered $28 million for a seat on a Blue Origin flight in July.

Saying it intends to have signed up 1,000 fare-paying passengers by ‘the start of commercial service later this year’, the ‘pay now, launch later’ laugh comes at the expense of depositing 150,000 $ that aspiring astronauts must pay to reserve a seat on Sir Richard Branson’s spacecraft.

The company said “customers will make their final payment before their flight.”

Read also: Space tourism becomes the final fun-tier

Virgin has struggled with the commercial aviation economy, merging Virgin America with Alaska Airlines in 2016. Virgin Atlantic filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in 2020.

In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that “under its new business plan, Virgin Atlantic, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines Inc., expects to start earning the money in 2023,” adding that “it had secured a $530 million investment split equally between Delta and Virgin Group to help expand flights to the United States and address any further disruption due at omicron and slower winter months.

Virgin shares rose 30% as news from the trading department broke.

Eyes now riveted on the stars, Virgin Galactic intends to avoid the financial asteroids.

In Tuesday’s announcement, Virgin Galactic Chairman and Chief Commercial and Consumer Operations Officer, Blair Rich, said, “We have developed a compelling and effective sales process to support the growth of our business operations. A global commercial space line demands an iconic and timeless brand. It is important that our brand represents our dynamic customer offering and reflects our unique experience, style and service.

This $450,000 prize includes membership in a “future astronaut community” that promises “access to cash-free experiences, events, travel, and space-readiness activities while they wait for their spaceflight”.

In well-timed serendipitous news, Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of payment processing company Shift4 and a passenger on SpaceX’s first commercial flight, announced in a Monday, Feb. 14, press release that he had purchased several more spaceflights with this operator.

Isaacman made the announcement as he unveiled his own Polaris program, which partners with SpaceX for a series of flights featuring commercial spaceflight firsts, including the first space tourism spacewalk and the highest Earth orbit ever flown.

“The first mission, Polaris Dawn, is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year at the earliest and will be commanded by Isaacman, an accomplished pilot and astronaut who led Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit that harvested more than $240 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” the statement said.

Polaris Dawn doesn’t sell seats, but with a crew capacity of four and a previous fundraising record of $240 million, the simple math works out to $60 million per seat.

See also: Space tech sees investment rise with billionaire space missions

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