Virgin Galactic's Spaceship Readies For Commercial Flights

Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's commercial space flight venture, has announced that it will run test flights of its rocket-powered spaceship by 2011. Will Whitehorn, the company's president, claimed that Virgin had secured funding for its "spaceline" operations and would be turning a profit in as little as two years after launching its first commercial flight.


$200,000 tickets on the spaceship have sold to over 300 eager space tourists, whose deposits have plunked a good $45 million in Virgin's coffers. Another $280 million from an Abu Dhabi-backed investment firm that purchased a 32 percent stake in the company differentiates Virgin Galactic from other commercial space ventures that are still scrounging for funding.

Abu Dhabi hopes its investment in Virgin's spaceline will transform the sheikdom into a hub for space tourism. Though Abu Dhabi has plans to build its own spaceport, New Mexico is currently Virgin's launching pad of choice.

While Branson's space efforts have drawn attention thanks to his flashy reputation, other companies are progressing toward commercial space operations as well. NASA recently granted millions of dollars to five U.S. firms that, as a result of Obama's proposed budget cuts, will assume much of the space agency's historic human space flight mission. Virgin Galactic's focus on space tourism and its mix of private and government funding, however, sets the company apart. 

Presented by

Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In