Leave it to Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk to lead the competition for commercial space travel.
As we’ve covered earlier this year, there is growing interest in the investment community regarding the potential of the space industry. Nevermind, we’re likely still decades away from commercial space travel, analysts like Tess Hatch, Bessemer Venture Partners’ see multitrillion-dollar potential over the next two decades:
“It’s absolutely a viable industry to invest in, just like software. The thing to note about space is that the feedback cycle is a bit longer. While that might take a bit longer, I do think it will have the same return on your investment as a software company.”
And amid recent stories detailing the failed tests of Musk’s SpaceX rockets, which saw yet another explosion this week, Branson opportunistically grabbed the limelight, unveiling Virgin Galactic’s first SpaceShip III, the VSS Imagine.
Bringing the billionaire one step closer to space travel, with the company planning to have flights available this summer from its Spaceport America facility in New Mexico, while manufacturing a second version of the SpaceShip III, the VSS Inspire.
The VSS Imagine is Virgin Galactic’s third spacecraft, which will undergo ground testing soon after the May 2021 test flight of its SpaceShip II vessel, the VSS Unity. Previously called the VSS Voyager, Unity was introduced in February 2016, and on its first flight in December 2018, it reached an altitude of 50 miles (80 km).
When it’s all said and done, Virgin Galactic’s mission is to conduct 400 flights per year, per spaceport location. But if you want a seat on one of those flights, it will probably run you between $200,000 and $250,000 for a ticket.