Billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceship company Virgin Galactic has been cleared for takeoff just a month after a successful test flight. Virgin Galactic’s first manned space flight departed from its new home port in New Mexico with two pilots.
This news comes following approval from the US aviation safety regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for Virgin Galactic to fly paying passengers to space, having had its general licence since 2016. The spaceflight company says this marks the first time the FAA has licenced a spaceline to fly the paying public.
Since the approval of such commercial licence, the share price of Branson’s company increased by 35 per cent. Virgin Galactic has also already obtained 600 ticket reservations for flights from its new base, costing between $200,000 and $250,000 each. Despite this, and the company so far having completed three test flights, it still has another three to go. The next will carry four passengers to test the spacecraft’s cabin, with the following flight having Branson himself on board. The final test flight will carry members of the Italian Air Force for astronaut training.
This will turn up the pressure on rivals in the space tourism sector. Branson’s space venture faces off against Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX. All have been investing billions into their rocket startups. Branson is reported to be flying to space himself with the hopes of beating rival Bezos to the final frontier. Bezos has announced that he will be onboard Blue Origin’s first space flight on 20 July.