The FAA has granted Virgin Galactic approval to transport passengers into space. It’s the first such approval, and the company’s stock price soared with the news. Branson, like his billionaire rivals Elon Musk of SpaceX and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin, have both put their billions toward the development of space flight, with one of those goals to put paying passengers into space. Virgin’s previous launch license, which it has had in hand since 2016, was limited to non-commercial flights.
But the approval opens the gates for passengers to climb aboard and taste the stardust. The company has said it has more than 500 reservations for space flights, with each of them going for between $200,000 and $250,000. The spaceship can carry two pilots and up to six passengers.
While some have made light of these coming pricey sightseeing flights, check out the video. We’ll think you’ll agree it’s an incredible sight and, we can only imagine (being around $200,000 short of funds for a seat), that the experience must be all that and then some.
The approval might mean that Branson, if he does indeed grab a seat, will beat Bezos into space. (There is a petition circulated signed by more than 70,000 people asking tongue-in-cheek that Jeff Bezos, if he does indeed go up in that July 20 launch, not be allowed to return from space.)
And when we say “space,” in Bezos’ case, it’ll be just barely that, with the apogee of the rocket’s journey being just above the internationally recognized Karman line at 100 km (62 miles) above the planet’s surface. A Blue Origin spokesperson told BBC News that only 569 people have flown into Karman-demarcated space, but if things go as planned, that number will skyrocket, literally and figuratively, as all three companies bring paying passengers aloft. There was talk of Bezos being the first tycoon to get there, but Branson now has the upper hand, it seems, at least in terms of approval for such flights. The first Blue Origin launch is set for July 20, and there’s one unnamed passenger who has paid $28 million for a seat. Bezos, if he goes, will presumably be a non-rev passenger.