virgin galactic unity
virgin galactic unity
virgin galactic unity

Virgin Galactic Nears Launch of Space Tourism Business after Successful VSS Unity Flight Test

BKMT Staff

May 25, 2023


Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company led by Richard Branson, is on the verge of launching its long-awaited space tourism business. Following several delays, the company has successfully concluded its last VSS Unity flight test before commencing commercial operations. During the Unity 25 mission, both technical functionality and the overall astronaut experience were evaluated, culminating in a space-reaching flight at approximately 12:26 PM Eastern Time.

The recent launch holds significance beyond its technical achievements. Jamila Gilbert, a crew member on Unity 25, made history as the first female astronaut from New Mexico, according to Virgin Galactic. Gilbert, alongside her Virgin colleagues Chris Huie, Luke Mays, and Beth Moses, contributed to the successful completion of the mission.

Virgin Galactic faced multiple delays during the development of its spaceflight system. The most recent delay was due to challenges encountered while upgrading the VMS Eve host aircraft responsible for ferrying Unity to an altitude of 50,000 feet. While an unpowered test flight was conducted in late April, the first crewed flight dates back to July 2021 when founder Richard Branson himself joined Moses, Sirisha Bandla, and Colin Bennett for Unity 22. Unity 25 marks the company's fifth spaceflight overall.

This milestone marks a pivotal moment in Virgin Galactic's history, following years of setbacks and delays in the development of its space tourism venture. Generating meaningful revenue remains a crucial objective for the company, and regular spaceflights are essential to achieving this goal. With nearly $900 million in cash and securities on hand, Virgin Galactic continues to invest heavily in expanding its fleet of spacecraft. However, the company's quarterly cash burn is increasing as it awaits the arrival of its future Delta class spacecraft, which are not expected to enter service until 2026.

VSS Unity, designed to accommodate up to six passengers alongside two pilots, holds 600 reservations for future flights, with ticket prices ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 each. Ticket sales were reopened in 2021, with pricing starting at $450,000 per seat, reflecting the high demand and anticipation surrounding Virgin Galactic's unique space tourism experience.