Last year saw a handful of billionaires race one another to space, with Sir Richard Branson doing it first on a Virgin Galactic flight that just about met the requirements deemed to be space travel.
In the months following the feat, Virgin Galactic has billing itself as a venture for those interested in commercial space tourism, with a seat costing upwards of $450 000.
Unfortunately said trips have been pushed back again, with another delay being announced by the company. “Commercial service expected to launch in Q2 2023 due to extended completion dates within the mothership enhancement program,” the company noted in a recent earnings call.
This pushes back the initial launch of this commercial program once more, having originally outlined the end of 2022 as its first time frame. Given that we are talking about highly sensitive hardware, not to mention the cost of a trip, ensuring all the necessary elements are in place and well tested seems the safest decision in our view.
While efforts have been delayed by a few months, it looks like Virgin Galactic is preparing to scale up in the coming years. This as the same earnings call also noted plans to acquire new motherships, which are the aircraft that carry the VSS Unity payload that houses the budding astronauts.
“On July 6, 2022, announced selection of Boeing subsidiary, Aurora Flight Sciences, to build two new motherships, each designed to fly up to 200 launches per year. The first new mothership is planned to enter service in 2025,” the company highlighted.
What this new delay will mean for interest in such an offering remains to be seen, but given that Blue Origin and SpaceX are more concerned with missions to planets and telecommunications instead of space tourism, Virgin Galactic is in a field all its own.
That said, the pool of people who can afford a trip seems rather small. Either way it seems confident that many millionaires will be keen to become astronauts.