Virgin Galactic’s commercial flights to space are getting ready for liftoff.
The company has announced that it’s just days away from sending “private astronauts” on its first flight, “Galactic 01” beyond the realms of Earth.
Galactic 01 is expected to fly between June 27 and June 30 with three crew members on board to conduct microgravity research, Virgin Galactic said in an announcement to investors. Those crew members are from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council.
“With scientific payloads on board, the spaceflight will showcase the value and power of the unique suborbital science lab that Virgin Galactic offers,” the company says on its website.
The company’s second commercial flight, Galactic 02, is planned to depart just over a month later at the beginning of August. After those two flights, Virgin Galactic said it is hoping to launch commercial spaceflights on a monthly basis. More details on these flights will be announced prior to liftoff. More than 800 tickets for these flights have already been sold, according to the BBC, but it comes at a heavy cost.
Just applying for the opportunity requires a $10,000 temporary credit card authorization, and if you are approved and committed to the flight, there is a $150,000 deposit. Before the flight, participants must pay an additional $300,000 to bring the total cost of spending a few minutes in space to $450,000.
The new venture comes soon after the company successfully launched “Unity,” its first crewed flight in two years that took place on a sub-orbital spaceplane.
Starting this commercial flight venture comes amid a space race between Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, both of which soared to space in the summer of 2021 to ignite excitement. Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Galactic, was one of the few who experienced a launch that summer, when he flew to more than 50 miles above Earth for a weightless view of the planet.
But the commercial flight excitement comes after a bit of a downfall for Branson, who had to file for bankruptcy for his satellite company Virgin Orbit. The firm laid off 85% of its employees and said it was looking for buyers in April, just a few months after an attempt to launch nine satellites ended in failure.