Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. received regulatory approval to fly customers into space, moving the budding industry founded by billionaires one step closer to reality.
The first billionaire to dream of taking passengers into space, Sir Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic back in 2004, has just heard the good news that the Federal Aviation Administration has upgraded the company’s existing license to cover customer flights. The approval is the first of its kind and marks a major milestone after nearly two decades of trial and error, reports Bloomberg.
Of course, other billionaires have joined the space race in recent years, most notably Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk - with the latter being particularly successful, and routinely delivering astronauts to the International Space Station. Jeff Bezos plans his first trip in July, after auctioning a passenger seat for $28 million for the 11 minute flight.
“A new chapter in the story of human space flight is beginning,” the FAA said in a statement on Virgin Galactic. The agency confirmed it had “approved the first commercial space license to launch private individuals into space.”
The company says 600 people have already purchased tickets, including celebrities like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio. With a hefty price tag of $250,000 (£175,000) a ticket, the 90 minute flight is being aimed at wealthy celebrities and thrillseekers.
A Virgin Galactic test flight in May achieved a speed of Mach 3 and reached space at an altitude of 55.5 miles. The company said it would continue preparing for three remaining test flights.