The long-awaited commercial space flight service by Virgin Galactic, the space tourism firm founded by Richard Branson, will launch later this month, the company has announced.
The first spaceflight, called “Galactic 01”, is planned between June 27 and June 30, the company said on Thursday.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
“Galactic 02” will follow in early August, with monthly space flights expected afterwards.
Galactic 01 will carry three crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy to conduct microgravity research.
The window for that research flight will begin June 27 and span the next three days, with timing depending on the weather.
After that, those who have been waiting more than a decade for their ride on board Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered space plane are expected to get their chance.
Virgin Galactic’s space plane
Virgin Galactic has been working for years to send paying passengers on short space trips and, in 2021, finally won the federal government’s approval. The company completed its final test fight in May.
After reaching an altitude of nearly 50,000 feet (15,000 metres), Virgin Galactic’s space plane is released from a carrier aircraft and drops for a moment before igniting its rocket motor.
The plane shuts off once it reaches space, providing passengers with silence, weightlessness and an aerial view of Earth. The rocket ship then glides back to the runway at Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert.
Virgin Galactic has sold about 800 tickets over the past decade, with the initial batch going for $200,000 each. Tickets now cost $450,000 per person.
The company said early fliers have already received their seat assignments.
Shares of Virgin Galactic had lost at least two-thirds of their value last year due to delays in the company’s commercial service launch. Shares were up at $6.30 in after-market trading on Thursday.