If you wanted to fly to space on one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space planes, you should have bought one seven years ago.
Virgin Galactic announced on Thursday that ticket sales for its flights, which rise above 50 miles and provide about four minutes of free fall and a view of Earth against the darkness of space, would resume.
The cost per seat is at least $450,000.
That’s about $200,000 more than the company charged in 2014, before sales were halted following the crash of its first space plane, the VSS Enterprise, during a test flight. Approximately 600 people purchased tickets in the first round of sales.
You’ll have to wait even longer if you haven’t already put down a $1,000 refundable deposit. The 1,000 people who were able to reserve a spot on the waiting list for when ticket sales resumed will be the first to receive tickets from Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier acknowledged during a conference call with industry analysts as the company announced its quarterly earnings that the higher price would result in higher revenues and please shareholders. However, he stated that the trip to space “delivers such great value that the people who experience this journey with us can’t help but recommend it.”
While the tickets for the earlier customers are now relatively cheap, they have been waiting for years longer than they anticipated. Branson has stated repeatedly over the years that commercial flights will begin soon.
Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, with the intention of starting commercial flights in 2008. However, the rocket plane’s development proved to be far more difficult and time-consuming than anticipated. Branson was one of six people on a test flight in July when he finally got his flight.
The next flight is expected to take place in late September. Although it is still a test flight, it will carry paying passengers — the Italian air force purchased the flight to conduct experiments with two of its researchers.
The space plane, named VSS Unity, and the carrier plane that takes it off the ground to an altitude of about 45,000 feet before releasing it for its short flight to space will then be upgraded by Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic plans one more test flight in the middle of 2022 to verify the upgrades before beginning commercial operations, according to Colglazier. With more space planes coming into service, Virgin Galactic hopes to speed up the pace of flights.
Even at the exorbitant price, Colglazier expects repeat business. “We believe this experience is so unique and compelling that it will drive multiple repeat experiences with friends and family across multiple spaceports around the world,” he said.
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ rocket company and a competitor to Virgin Galactic in the suborbital space tourism market, recently started selling tickets for its New Shepard spacecraft, which launches like a rocket rather than a plane and travels a bit higher, to more than 62 miles.
Blue Origin auctioned one seat on its first flight, which carried Bezos, for $28 million, which went to Bezos’ space-focused charity, Club for the Future.
Blue Origin began selling seats to auction participants, but it has not revealed the current ticket price or the number of people who have purchased tickets.