Fresh from the success of its first air-launched “passenger” suborbital SpaceShipTwo test flight to the edge of space on 11 July, Virgin Galactic has just announced that it is reopening its ticket facility and with increased ticket prices. While would-be space tourists who originally booked their flights well over a decade ago paid circa US$250,000, new signatories will have to front up US$450,000 to make such a flight. Virgin Galactic’s founder Sir Richard Branson, who flew on the recent flight with three other “passengers”, and who retains a small stake in the firm, originally hoped to have begun commercial launches in 2010. Various technical delays, most seriously involving a fatal accident in 2015, significantly delayed the programme. And the delays continue.
Virgin Galactic has announced that it will need to make two more passenger test flights before the formal start of its commercial suborbital spaceflight service previously expected in Q3 2021, but now planned for second-half 2022. Virgin Galactic’s main suborbital spaceflight competitor Blue Origin has already begun its passenger spaceflight programme with a successful launch of its vertically launched New Shepard rocket with founder Jeff Bezos aboard, and is planning to launch two more times this year.