Skift Take

Virgin Galactic joins Blue Origin and Space Perspective in aspiring to make the final frontier open to all who can afford it. That's good news for travel agencies like RocketBreaks.

Virgin Galactic plans to send a handful of paying passengers to the edge of space on June 8 as the space industry continues to grow and diversify.

“So far, there are about 3,000 to 4,000 people on the waiting lists for these trips,” said David Doughty, co-founder of the space travel agency RocketBreaks. His agency has secured contracts with seven tourists looking to launch into orbit and has set a date for one. 

Virgin Galactic’s flight will take off from New Mexico on Saturday and carry three private passengers from California, New York, and Italy. Tuva Cihangir Atasever, a researcher-astronaut from infrastructure company Axiom Space, and two commanders will accompany them.

Virgin Galactic has not released the identities of the private passengers. 

In an email to Skift, the company said, “We don’t consider our mission to take people to space, “tourism.” Those who fly with us become astronauts in what is a very thoughtful, purposeful journey that begins when they purchase a ticket.”

The passengers, whose identities were not disclosed, will enjoy a roughly 90-minute journey to the edge of space that includes a few minutes of zero gravity.

The company’s website states that spaceflight tickets cost $450,000, though it doesn’t disclose what passengers truly paid. On a recent earnings call, executives said the average price per seat on this flight is over $800,000 hope to charge a ticket price of $600,000. Blue Origin doesn’t publicize its prices, but they have been said to range between $200,000 and over $1 million.

The space tourism industry

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are known for their shorter suborbital flights, while SpaceX focuses on bringing tourists into orbit and to the International Space Station.

In August 2023, Virgin Galactic brought a health and wellness coach and her 18-year-old daughter who had won a fundraising competition by Space for Humanity, a non-profit that seeks to democratize space travel to space.

BlueOrigin, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has sent more than two dozen passengers into space. SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, brought an all-tourist crew back from space in 2021.

The industry is growing and diversifying. One company, called Space Perspective, is offering an even more luxurious experience, with VIP seating, a toilet, Michelin-star catering, and WiFi. Rather than a 90-minute round trip, this experience would last closer to six hours.

A space travel agency

“This is our number one product,” said Doughty. “People don’t necessarily want this fast 15-minute adrenaline field journey. They want a full experience. There are people that are planning to get married and have the first weddings in space.”

The waiting list for Space Perspective is already about 800 names long, according to Doughty. The first flight is scheduled to launch in 2027.

Virgin Galactic plans to retire its current spacecraft after this flight and start developing a new generation of Delta spaceships, which the company hopes will have the capacity to launch up to eight times per month and carry more passengers. Private astronaut flights are expected to resume in 2026. But the company will have to find a way to stay financially viable in the meantime.

The future of space tourism

RocketBreaks sees the industry widening to different types of experiences. “You can really personalize the experience and we help people find the journey they want,” said Doughty. “We could plan anything from a child meeting an astronaut for his birthday, a bucket list trip in your 70s and you don’t like G-Force, something for a premier league footballer who wants to feel the adrenaline.”

The technology is developing rapidly and confidence is slowly building, said Barry Shanks, director at RocketBreaks. “There’s going to be a great deal of marketing going on, so then I think we will see a rise,” he said. 

“In the long term, like 10 years time, we’re looking at doing a trip around the moon that will be no different than flying from London to Australia,” said Shanks of RocketBreaks.

CORRECTION: This article originally said Virgin Galactic’s latest flight on June 8 would be its second with paying passengers. It will be its seventh. We’ve also added this statement: “On its latest earnings call, the company said the average price per seat on this flight was over $800,000.”

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Tags: space, space tourism, spacex, Travel Experiences, Travel Trends, virgin galactic

Photo credit: Virgin Galactic's first mission carrying passengers in August, 2023. Virgin Galactic

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