Virgin Galactic is getting closer to taking passengers into space

Feb 27, 2020

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Do you have $250,000 and a penchant for adventure?

You could become a space explorer in the near future — or possibly this year if your name is Richard Branson.

Virgin Galactic, the Branson-backed private space venture, says it is getting ever-closer to the first commercial passenger space flights.

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The company has planned for space flights since as early as 2010, but the first flight has been delayed repeatedly over the last decade. Virgin Galactic is taking refundable $1,000 deposits from the public, though, if you want to get on the list for a future trip into orbit.

For now, though, it appears the company’s founder is set to be the first passenger — possibly sometime this year.

At a Wings Club luncheon in New York on Thursday, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said that the company is “all in” on getting Branson to low-Earth orbit this year, and that the future of commercial space flight looks bright.

Related: Virgin Galactic Unveils New Lounge, Mission Control for Space Flights

“For the vast majority of our customers, it will create the first realistic opportunity to experience space travel firsthand,” he said.

Whitesides expanded on Virgin Galactic’s mission in his speech. In addition to providing an opportunity for average humans to see Earth from space, he said the company will provide an opportunity for research scientists to benefit more easily from low-gravity experiments. And, he added, the flights might come to represent the future of point-to-point travel between destinations on Earth.

Earlier this week, the company backed off recent guidance that space flights could launch as early as June. But when paying customers do finally get into space, Whitesides said, all six passengers on every flight will have two windows each.

Aside from an earlier raffle that allowed Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members to use 2 million miles toward a chance to win a Virgin Galactic flight, Whitesides said the company has no plans for regular points redemptions yet.

Related: Astronauts share their best travel tips for Earthlings

“We’re more focused on the technical aspects right now,” he told TPG at the Thursday luncheon.

Branson said on an investor call earlier this week that the company is still conducting final tests and seeking some regulatory approvals, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The company went public last year, and while its financial position has been relatively strong, its stocks have taken a hit in recent days.

Featured photo courtesy of Virgin Galactic.

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