Something to look forward to: Prospective space tourists will soon have another option to choose from as Virgin Galactic is gearing up for commercial operations later this month. The inaugural mission, dubbed Galactic 01, has an open flight window of June 27 – 30. A second flight, aptly named Galactic 02, is on the calendar for early August with subsequent monthly commercial flights thereafter.
Virgin Galactic said Galactic 01 will be a scientific research mission carrying three crew members from the National Research Council of Italy and the Italian Air Force. Microgravity experiments will demonstrate the "unique suborbital science lab" that Virgin Galactic can afford clients. Galactic 02, meanwhile, will carry private astronauts seeking out-of-this-world thrills.
The company said livestreams of both flights will be available to view on Virgin Galactic's website. The manifest and additional details regarding crew will be shared closer to the launch of each mission, we are told.
Virgin Galactic opened spaceflight ticket sales a little over a year ago. Pricing starts at $450,000, with a $150,000 deposit due up front. The remaining $300,000 balance is due before the flight. The experience is highlight restrictive at that price but the hope is that over time as technology improves, prices will come down and demand will increase.
Flights will launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Future astronauts will stay with their guests at forthcoming custom accommodations and experience several days of preparedness activities. Guests will enjoy world-class amenities and bespoke itineraries during astronaut training programs.
Virgin Galactic has plenty of experience with space tourism flights. In the summer of 2021, founder Richard Branson hitched a ride to space on Unity 22 to evaluate his firm's customer spaceflight experience. The flight went off without a hitch and was streamed live online.
Branson's trip was noteworthy as it marked the first time a company had flown its founder to space. What's more, Branson pulled off the feat roughly a week before Jeff Bezos' spaceflight company Blue Origin conducted its first human spaceflight with him onboard.