After years of tests, space tourism line Virgin Galactic is finally beginning commercial spaceflight services at the end of the month, the company announced today. After these initial flights, they will move to monthly ones and start working through the ticket-holder backlog.
Galactic 01 will, barring any delay, launch some time between June 27-30. This won’t be a bunch of rich leisure-seekers, however, but the first of its scientific research missions. Members of the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy will go up to the edge of space “to conduct microgravity research,” and a few onboard experiments will show the potential for other researchers.
Galactic 02 will be the first real private astronaut flight, or launch, however you want to call it. The passengers are not yet announced, but one imagines it will be a mix of wealthy people, influencers, and perhaps a charity spot for a student.
Following that mission, the company expects to begin monthly flights, with the goal of eventually speeding that up to a faster cadence to reduce scarcity and lower the price. It may not ever be affordable, exactly, but it’s possible that in a few years you may be able to choose between a Virgin Galactic flight and a 3-week tropical vacation. Some folks will gladly opt for the former.
Virgin Galactic has been working on perfecting its launch method, by which the spacecraft drops off a custom carrier jet at high altitude and takes off from there, for several years now. Despite a few setbacks and generally speaking everything taking way longer than expected, it looks like the perseverance is finally paying off.
We’ll know more about these missions, as well as what and who will be going up on them, as they approach.