Virgin Galactic had to pull the ripcord on its first space launch this week. The company put out a statement detailing why they had to postpone the launch. COVID-19 is surging across the country and New Mexico’s government is clamping down on all nonessential businesses. Unfortunately for Richard Branson, that means space flights like the one his company had planned. Things had sounded so promising a few weeks ago when CEO Michael Colglazier told shareholders about the long-term goals for expanding their space tourism operations. Virgin is aiming for $1 billion in annual revenue per location in a few years' time. SpaceX and Tesla’s success in the aerospace sector probably motivated the push to supercharge their efforts. The company is unique in its pursuit of space tourism as the main facet of their business. For now, fans hoping to see the launch will have to be patient until the coronavirus situation subsides.
"In consultation with government officials, and as a result of these new operations restrictions, the space flight that was planned to occur between Nov. 19-23, 2020 will be rescheduled," Virgin Galactic explained in their statement this week.
During an earnings call recently, Colglazier explained the company’s vision for the future and how they can get there.
“The first chapter of Virgin Galactic has been to accomplish an incredibly difficult task, creating a spaceflight system that can fly humans to space,” Colglazier told investors. “The next chapter of Virgin Galactic is to use this system to bring thousands and thousands of people to space and deliver our purpose of opening space to change the world for good. To reach this objective, we are embarking on a multi-year effort that will lead to flights not once a month, or even once a week – but targets flying 400 flights per year per spaceport.”
Virgin Galactic uses jet-powered carrier aircraft to get the spaceships on the right track. But, the CEO noted during that call, the company is going to need a lot more motherships at various spaceports to meet a 400 flight per year goal. Now, Virgin is “in the early planning stage to develop and build a second carrier aircraft.”
He added, “In order to now pivot to be able to supply the demand that we expect, we are going to have to ramp up manufacturing in that regard. But I think it will be on the order of a few motherships, many spaceships and ... a rocket motor for every flight as we go.”
Ticket prices for these flights are a median of $400,00 according to numbers from CNBC. The is pretty pricey, but actually the previously sold tickets weren’t cheap either. Virgin sold about 600 from $200,00-$250,000 each. It has not been revealed when the flights will go on sale, but demand will probably increase once flights like the one canceled get underway.
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Photo Credit: Algernon D'Ammassa/Sun-News