VSS Unity Glides Home after Second Supersonic Flight

Virgin Galactic: Space Tourism Company Profile

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If you want to go to space, you’re not alone! In this series on space tourism companies, we profile each of the top space tourism companies to help you learn more about them and what kind of space experience they offer. Below, you can learn more about Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s rocket-assisted spaceplane company.


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Virgin Galactic: Space Tourism Company Details

Virgin Galactic - Land Rover MENA via Flickr
Photo credit: Land Rover MENA via Flickr
  • Founded: 2010
  • Founder: Sir Richard Branson
  • Headquarters: Mojave, California
  • Launch Facility: Spaceport America, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 by Virgin Group British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. Branson originally stated that customers would be able to fly to space by the end of 2009. Unfortunately, technical developments and setbacks (including a fatal test flight in 2014) set back Virgin Galactic for over a decade beyond their original target date. They originally sold over 700 tickets to paying customers; these people are still waiting to fly to space and you cannot currently buy a ticket on Virgin Galactic.

As of late 2019, Virgin Galactic looks to be the first – or at least one of the first – companies to send paying customers to space.

Where does Virgin Galactic Take Off From?

Virgin Galactic - Land Rover MENA via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Land Rover MENA via Wikimedia Commons

Initially, Virgin Galactic conducted all test flights from Mojave Air & Spaceport in Mojave, California. This was an ideal location in the heart of the Mojave desert.

When they begin flying customers, Virgin Galactic will operate out of Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. They will be the anchor tenant of Spaceport America.

How Does Virgin Galactic Work?

Virgin Galactic - Jeff Foust via Flickr
Photo credit: Jeff Foust via Flickr

Once Virgin Galactic starts operating flights for paying customers, here’s what you’ll experience if you’re a ticket-holder:

  • You’ll fly to New Mexico and transfer to Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic’s launch site near the town of Truth or Consequences.
  • You’ll undergo a few days of training in what your experience will be like and how to stay safe during your flight.
  • On the day of you flight, you’ll board the VSS Unity and take-off from the runway at Spaceport America with the help of SpaceShipTwo.
  • At the appointed time, the VSS Unity will detach from SpaceShipTwo and fire its engines to move toward the edge of space.
  • As you reach the apex of elevation, the VSS Unity engines will shut off, and you’ll begin to experience weightlessness.
  • The VSS Unity will begin to return to earth, continuing your weightlessness experience.
  • After a few minutes, your astronaut instructor will help you return to your seats through the remainder of landing.
  • You’ll touch safely down on the runway at Spaceport America after an unforgettable experience.

During your flight, family and friends will be able to wait for you in a lounge at Spaceport America.

How High Does Virgin Galactic Go?

View from Space on Virgin Galactic's First Spaceflight
View from Space on Virgin Galactic’s First Spaceflight, © Virgin Galactic, 2019

Virgin Galactic Flights will reach around 360,000ft (110km) in altitude during the course of a flight. This is above the Kármán line (100km), which is commonly considered to be the altitude where space begins.

As of 2019, the highest Virgin Galactic has flown on test flights is over 271,000ft (82.7km).

How Long Will a Virgin Galactic Flight Last?

Virgin Galactic's Spaceflight System prepares for Flight at Spaceport America
Virgin Galactic’s Spaceflight System prepares for Flight at Spaceport America, © Virgin Galactic, 2019

When passengers board the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo for their flight from Spaceport America, they will begin a 2.5 hour journey to the edge of space and safely back to earth.

At the apex of the flight, passengers will experience between 5 minutes and 8 minutes of weightlessness. During this time, passengers will also be able to look out over the edge of the earth’s atmosphere and see the black darkness of space.

How Much is a Ticket on Virgin Galactic?

Space Tourism Companies Hero - Land Rover MENA via Flickr
Photo credit: Land Rover MENA via Flickr

As of 2019, tickets are no longer on sale, and there are over 700 ticket-holders waiting on the reservation list. When tickets were originally sold for Virgin Galactic, the ticket price for a sub-orbital flight was $250,000 per person.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson has said publicly that he hopes ticket prices will fall to between $40,000-$50,000 per person once flights are regularly scheduled and the reserved tickets have all been fulfilled.

Has Virgin Galactic Gone to Space Yet?

Virgin Galactic Makes Space for Second Time in Ten Weeks with Three On Board
Virgin Galactic Makes Space for Second Time in Ten Weeks with Three On Board, © Virgin Galactic, 2019

After setbacks and test flights between 2010 and 2019, Virgin Galactic has officially gone to space twice: in December 2018 and February 2019. However, Virgin Galactic has not carried paying passengers to space as of September 2019.

Do you have other questions about Virgin Galactic? Let us know in the comments and we’ll build out this Virgin Galactic space tourism company profile!

Featured photo © Virgin Galactic, 2019

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Space Tourism Guide

Space Tourism Guide was founded with a mission to help every traveler find wonder among the stars. We produce expert guides to stargazing, seeing eclipses, the aurora, and rocket launches, travel tips for dark sky destinations, and advice on space tourism.

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