Virgin Galactic carries first tourists to the edge of Space | Tech News

Virgin Galactic carries first tourists to the edge of Space

Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. carried its first private tourists to the edge of space, a long-awaited milestone in founder Richard Branson’s quest to build a “spaceline for Earth.”

By:BLOOMBERG
| Updated on: Aug 11 2023, 07:19 IST
Best NASA Astronomy Pictures of the Week: Messier 101, Dumbbell Nebula, and more
image caption
1/5 Milky Way Galaxy and the Bioluminescent Sea (May 29) - It is a breathtaking snapshot of the Milky Way Galaxy captured over the bioluminescence of the sea in the Maldives. What is the turquoise glow in the water? It occurs due to single-celled Plankton, known as Noctiluca scintillans, which illuminate when stimulated by the sea waves to keep predators away. (NASA/Petr Horalek/Sovena Jani)
Virgin Galactic
2/5 Stellar Dumbbell Nebula (May 30) - Planetary nebula M27, also known as the Dumbbell Nebula, is located about 1360 light-years away towards the constellation of Vulpecula. The Dumbbell Nebula was the 27th object and the first ever planetary nebula discovered and catalogued by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1764, one of the most influential figures in the history of astronomy. (NASA/Patrick A. Cosgrove)
Virgin Galactic
3/5 Formation of our Universe throughout history (May 31) - This is an amazing computer simulation of our Universe as it developed throughout history. This simulation tracks gases leading from the early Universe till today. As the simulation goes on, the formation of a disk galaxy takes place. For the unaware, Disk Galaxies are formed when two or more galaxies merge, resulting in a pancake-shaped disk of stars. Our own Milky Way Galaxy is one such disk galaxy, and it will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy in the distant future, according to NASA. (NASA/ TNG Collaboration/MPCDF/FAS Harvard U)
Virgin Galactic
4/5 Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A (June 1) -  It is a snapshot of Cassiopeia A, a supernova remnant located about 11000 light-years from Earth towards the constellation of Cassiopeia. When a star explodes, the subsequent explosion which takes place, known as a Supernova, is the largest explosion to occur in space. According to NASA, a supernova happens when there is a change in the core, or center, of a star. A change can occur in two different ways, with both resulting in a supernova. (NASA/Hubble/CXC)
Virgin Galactic
5/5 Pinwheel Galaxy Messier 101 (June 2) - In this image, Messier 101, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy can be seen located about 25 million light-years away towards the Northern constellation of Ursa Major. Messier 101 is one of the last objects catalogued by Charles Messier and it is a massive pinwheel galaxy that spans about 170,000 light-years across. According to NASA, Messier 101 is also one of the first spiral nebulae to be observed by Lord Rosse's large 19th-century telescope, the Leviathan of Parsontown. (NASA/ESA/Hubble)
Virgin Galactic
icon View all Images
Virgin Galactic's mothership Eve, carrying the rocket-powered plane Unity 22, takes off from Spaceport America, near Truth or Consequences, N.M., Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023. Virgin Galactic is taking its first space tourists on a long-delayed rocket ship ride. (AP)

Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. carried its first private tourists to the edge of space, a long-awaited milestone in founder Richard Branson's quest to build a “spaceline for Earth.”

The VSS Unity craft reached space shortly before 9:30 a.m. local time Thursday, Virgin Galactic said on a livestream of the event, roughly an hour after it took off from a New Mexico spaceport. The tourist mission, which offered passengers several minutes of weightlessness before descending back to solid ground, was the company's second commercial flight following a recent research operation.

You may be interested in

MobilesTablets Laptops
7% OFF
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • Black Titanium
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 256 GB Storage
28% OFF
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra 5G
  • Green
  • 12 GB RAM
  • 256 GB Storage
Google Pixel 8 Pro
  • Obsidian
  • 12 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
  • Black
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage

“They are officially astronauts,” Virgin Galactic's Sirisha Bandla, who provided commentary during the flight, said on the livestream. “Welcome to space.”

Also read
Looking for a smartphone? To check mobile finder click here.

The suborbital joyride caps nearly two decades of development work and allows Virgin Galactic to finally begin clearing a backlog of roughly 800 ticket holders who have been waiting for rides to space. Virgin Galactic is competing against Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to sell trips to thrill-seekers looking to briefly shed Earth's gravity, the driving reason the company was first created.

The passengers included 80-year-old Jon Goodwin, a British former Olympian who has Parkinson's Disease, as well as Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, a mother-daughter pair from the Caribbean who won their seats through a charity drawing. They were joined by two pilots and a Virgin Galactic support astronaut.

Virgin Galactic's shares rose 1.8% to $3.44 as of 11:27 a.m. in New York, paring an earlier gain of as much as 3.8%. The stock was down nearly 3% this year through Wednesday and remains well below the highs of more than $55 in 2021. It was publicly listed through a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, in 2019.

The flight comes a little more than a month after Virgin Galactic finally kicked off commercial spaceflight operations. That first flight, Galactic 01, was strictly a research mission. It included a trio of researchers for the Italian Air Force, who tended to scientific payloads designed to take advantage of the microgravity environment of space.

Founded in 2004, Virgin Galactic originally promised to begin flying passengers as early as 2007. In those early days, tickets were sold for $200,000 and then upped to $250,000 while the company experienced delays. In 2014, a Virgin Galactic spaceplane crashed during a test flight, killing one test pilot and seriously injuring another, prompting the company to suspend ticket sales.

Virgin Galactic has experienced successes and failures since then. In 2018, the company reached space for the first time, and it made headlines in 2021 when it flew Branson to space. But after that flight, Virgin Galactic opted to stand down from space missions for nearly two years as it upgraded its vehicle fleet. It reopened ticket sales in 2022, that time for $450,000 a seat.

Loss Leader

Now, the company has a daunting backlog of customers to get through. But even as these passengers start to finally see space, Virgin Galactic says it will be a few years before it sees a profit from its missions.

The primary vehicle the company is flying at the moment is VSS Unity, a spaceplane that was unveiled back in 2016. While Unity will be used to perform monthly space trips, Virgin Galactic is focused on developing a new fleet of space vehicles called the Delta class. These ships, expected to enter operation as late as 2026, will be optimized for easier refurbishment and faster turnarounds between flights, allowing a higher frequency of trips each year.

“There's a little bit of a loss leader here with Unity,” Mike Moses, president of spaceline missions and safety, said in a June interview. “But it's important to demonstrate not only that we can do it, but to learn all the lessons to apply.”

Virgin Galactic doesn't anticipate seeing meaningful revenue for years. The company projects only bringing in roughly $1 million in revenue in each of the last two quarters of the year. That revenue could be slightly higher if a research flight is thrown into the mix, as seats for those missions run around $600,000, the company said.

Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Officer Michael Colglazier told Bloomberg News in June he is confident Virgin Galactic will be able to turn a profit if it can fly Delta on weekly trips to the edge of space.

Though he acknowledges suborbital space tourism will be a “capacity-constrained business” for some time, he hopes that as more private astronauts fly, they will inspire more customers to sign up.

“We need to normalize this industry,” Colglazier said. “It's not usual for your neighbor to go to space. But as we bring people through, that will become normalized.”

Catch all the Latest Tech News, Mobile News, Laptop News, Gaming news, Wearables News , How To News, also keep up with us on Whatsapp channel,Twitter, Facebook, Google News, and Instagram. For our latest videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

First Published Date: 11 Aug, 07:18 IST
NEXT ARTICLE BEGINS