Space travel is about to take off.
Richard Branson’s flight to the edge of space, scheduled for Sunday, brings the early industry closer to reality. However, it can take years before most travelers can afford it.
A spacecraft that carries them over 50 miles above Earth. The trip is the first flight of Virgin Galactic, which the company calls a full crew, with a billionaire entrepreneur, three company executives and two pilots piloting the spacecraft.
The company said High-profile flight Is the latest test of the technology and the first time since the Federal Aviation Administration granted permission to fly paid passengers into space last month. Virgin Galactic said he hopes to start such a trip next year. For now, Sunday flights serve as another potential verification point for the space travel industry. The space travel industry needs to attract wealthy passengers as it grows.
Manned space flight, for a long time Government agency state With scientific and policy goals, it is drawing new interest from investors and businesses looking for new opportunities to create a long-standing elusive space travel industry for commercial enterprises. Millionaires like Mr. Branson,
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And others Bet on demand It’s there to bring you a whole new business and experience.
“The whole business is to make people feel the awe and splendor of the universe,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, in a recent interview.
Virgin Galactic has not disclosed what it plans to charge for the ticket when it resumes sales. According to the latest annual report, the company, which suspended marketing in 2014, received as much as $ 250,000 in deposits for each future flight. Some analysts believe the company could price tickets up to $ 400,000 per ticket. May executives said the company would resume sales when Mr. Branson boarded the plane.
Ron Epstein, an aerospace analyst at Bank of America, said: “It’s hard to say how long and how many. It’s not clear how big it is.”
Virgin Galactic has characterized its interest in offerings as strong and reported that it had about 600 reservations for future space travel backed by deposits of more than $ 80 million. When discussing demand, the company listed about 2 million people last year with net worth of over $ 10 million in 2019.
“We believe there is really great demand. Looking at the excitement of the entire manned spaceflight concept, I think it will be seen by multiple players in the market,” Kolglazier said in a May investor call. Said.
Executives say that each Virgin Galactic-operated spaceport could generate $ 1 billion in annual revenue. The company reported a loss of $ 273 million in 2020.
Branson’s flight will begin at the company’s first such facility near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Once in space, the passengers float in zero gravity for a few minutes, looking through the 12 circular cabin windows to the earth and a few spaces. There are also 5 windows for pilots.
Virgin Galactic isn’t the only one trying to build a business based on space flight. Bezos’ Blue Origin plans a July 20 trip to space, including him, his brother, and two others. The company is also looking for opportunities with government and national security customers, and last year it worked with its partners to launch a lander aimed at bringing astronauts to the moon in 2024. It was decided to develop.
Mr. Musk’s Space Exploration Technology Corporation (SpaceX) takes astronauts back to the International Space Station. NASA Moon Lander.. However, SpaceX is also planning the first all-civil mission to space, led by Jared Isaacman’s CEO later this year.
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By 2030, space travel could generate nearly $ 4 billion in revenue that year, according to last year’s estimates by UBS analyst Myles Walton. This figure includes sales related to the type of orbital space flight (the authorities reach the boundary of the beginning of space), which Virgin Galactic and its competitor Blue Origin have been working on, as well as flight and moon around the planet.
Traveling to space carries risks.The ships that Virgin Galactic and other space companies use to bring humans into space Tested a fraction of the time As a commercial aircraft. In 2014, a Virgin Galactic pilot died in a test on the company’s spaceplane. Safety regulators later said that after the aircraft launched a rocket engine, the pilot unlocked the tail as it approached the sound barrier, resulting in the aircraft being torn. Another pilot survived.
Joan Gabrinovic, an emeritus professor of space law at the University of Mississippi, generally describes commercial spacecraft: It is important to understand the degree of risk associated with each launch. “
Sunday’s Virgin Galactic flight will be the 22nd VSS Unity spacecraft. Safety is “the foundation of everything that Virgin Galactic does,” said Colglazier, CEO of the company.
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After a test flight in May, when VSS Unity reached an altitude of 55.5 miles, the Federal Aviation Administration approved Virgin Galactic’s full commercial space launch license. Colglazier said the company achieved all its technical goals during its May flight and was able to understand how travel feels to its customers. Branson’s role on Sunday’s flight is to help the company think about these issues.
Virgin Galactic’s business model is almost entirely focused on space travel, making Sunday flights important to the company.
“For Virgin Galactic, they have a lot of eggs in this basket,” said Andrew Chanin, CEO of New York-based Procedure AMLLC, which manages the space industry’s exchange-traded funds. “Most of their business focuses on space travel, so this is absolutely crucial to the success or failure of their company.”
—DougCameron contributed to this article.
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