Virgin Galactic could launch its first commercial flight within the month, according to speculation by experts close to the matter.
In February, Travel Weekly reported that Virgin Galactic, which aims to be the first commercial spaceline, is aiming to make space tourism a reality by the end of 2019.
However, it looks like Virgin Galactic could take off much earlier.
Virgin Galactic hasn’t announced a launch date just yet, however, there is widespread speculation that flights on the company’s SpaceShipTwo vehicles could be months, maybe even weeks away.
But hold your horses; there are a few things you ought to know before you jump on the space tourism wagon.
Flights will reportedly cost a whopping $355,000 ($250,000 USD) for six minutes of flight time, which features an air launch, rocket-powered ascent at three and a half times the speed of sound and several minutes of weightlessness.
Pundits have said the completion of a final test flight in February and Virgin Galactic’s headquarters move in May to Spaceport America, southern New Mexico are sure signs that the company is gearing up for take-off.
Branson reportedly wants the launch of Galactic to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing on 20 July. However, he has also said that he expects it to be taking members of the public to space by the end of the year.
“We are at the vanguard of a new industry determined to pioneer twenty-first-century spacecraft, which will open space to everybody — and change the world for good,” Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson said.
The more reserved prediction seems the most likely, given a recent indicator of the timeline from Virgin Galactic officials at a press conference last week.
Speaking at Spaceport Americas Cup, a rocket engineering event in Las Cruces, New Mexico, pilot Dan McKay told Skift he has “every expectation that [Virgin Galactic] will be in commercial operation” by next year.
Virgin Galactic’s space travel offering has been 14 years in the making, and the company was originally set to make it a reality in 2007.
The project has not been without its setbacks, either, with pilot error causing a fatal crash five years ago.
SpaceX (backed by Tesla’s Elon Musk) and Blue Origin (backed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos) are among the companies challenging Virgin Galactic for space tourism bragging rights.