The countdown for Virgin Galactic’s “Gateway to Space” has truly begun as it edges closer to being the first publicly-traded space tourism company to successfully take customers into space.
A week ago, the company showed off its new New Mexico spaceport to the public, and it looks like those first $250,000-ticket tourists are in for the ride of their life. The facility is part of the state-run Spaceport America in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which also hosts facilities for SpaceX, EXOS Aerospace, and other companies
The interior is reminiscent of a retro, 1960s vibe, but the technology is nothing but modern. You’ll find a barista where you can get a latte for your flight and an interactive walkway to enjoy, as well. The social hub is located on the first floor, called Gaia. Cirrus, the second floor, is where the operations center and mission control is located.
Though the third floor is yet to be revealed, the company has stated that it will be a lounge for their space-flying customers. “Each floor developed has a nice story connecting it back to social activity on Earth,” says designer Jeremy Brown. “Then moving through the mission control part of the building with lighter material references there.”
Virgin Galactic’s CEO George Whitesides says, “We’re on the home stretch now.” In just a matter of weeks, the aircraft carrier will head to Mojave, where the company’s test facilities are located. There, it will pick up Virgin’s spacecraft, the VMS Unity, and transport it back to New Mexico where test flights will ensue.
Once all the kinks have been worked out and Virgin Galactic is satisfied with their finished product, they’ll be ready to take on their first commercial flight. Currently, 603 reservations have been made for spaceflight, totaling about $80 million in deposits.
They haven’t marketed for tickets since 2014, but once commercial space flights have commenced, Virgin Galactic will be offering new tickets for at least $250,000.
Back in July, the company announced that they would be merging with Social Capital Hedosophia, which will invest $800 million for a 49% stake in the company. In addition, they’ll trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
You may be thinking, “Who even has enough money sitting around to afford one of these flights?” But you’d be surprised to discover that the company received over 2,500 inquiries for reservations for the first flight in December 2018, and more are clamoring since last week’s unveiling.
When everything is set for that first commercial flight, customers will board the Unity, which will be attached to the underside of the aircraft Eve, and once the airplane flies to around 50,000 feet, the rocket will detach and launch into space where passengers will get a stunning view of both space and Earth.
For a few minutes, they’ll be free from the restraints of their seats to experience the weightlessness until it’s time to head back home. In total, the duration of the flight is going to be around 3-4 hours from take-off to landing.