Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is reopening ticket sales for its SpaceShipTwo spaceplane, the space tourism firm announced Thursday in its second-quarter earnings release. The starting price: $450,000, an expected increase from the roughly $200,000 price point the company had years ago, before it closed sales.
The ticket reopening comes on the heels of Branson’s successful flight in July to the edge of space aboard SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s flagship space tourism vehicle that can carry four passengers some 53 miles high for a few minutes of weightlessness. That mission, called Unity 22, was a key milestone test of the rocket-plane before Virgin starts flying individual customers in late 2022.
“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,” Virgin Galactic’s chief executive Michael Colglazier said in a release. “As we endeavor 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.”
Ticket sales for individual customers had been closed since a fatal 2014 accident during a test flight. After that accident, Branson vowed to ride SpaceShipTwo to space himself in a show of confidence of the vehicle’s safety before it starts flying paying customers. After his successful mission on July 11th, with three company employees, the company is targeting late September for its first revenue-generating mission, it said in the press release. That mission, Unity 23, will carry research payloads and three members from the Italian Air Force.
Missions like the Italian Air Force’s, either for seat-sized microgravity research payloads or professional astronaut training, will cost $600,000 per seat, Colglazier said during an earnings call on Thursday. Prospective customers looking to pay at least $450,000 for a seat will have to get in an already long line — the company has said it has a backlog of some 600 ticket holders who will have to fly first. And a mass of roughly 1,000 prospective customers who’ve placed $1,000 deposits would be next in line, a spokesperson said. With the new ticket sales, Virgin will offer three ways to hitch rides on SpaceShipTwo: the single seat option, a “multi-seat couples / friends / family package,” and a full-flight buyout.
“Sales will initially open to the Company’s significant list of early hand-raisers, prioritizing the Spacefarer Community, who, as promised, will be given first opportunity to reserve their place in space,” the company said. “A follow-on priority list will be opened to customers interested in reserving future spaceflights.”
Update August 5th, 7:05PM ET: Adds information from Virgin Galactic’s earnings call and presentation.