Virgin Galactic is expected to officially begin regular commercial space flights in the second quarter of 2023.
Commercial spaceflights and the whole industry of space tourism, in general, have become a tangible reality in recent years. Thanks to billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson and their respective companies SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, citizens will be able to book tickets to fly out of earth’s atmosphere and witness our breathtaking blue planet from a bird’s eye view in outer space. And Virgin Galactic says individuals will be able to experience that splendor on their commercial spacecraft beginning in 2023.
Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier relayed to CNBC that the company’s plan is to start doing commercial spaceflight trial runs in the first quarter of 2023. Then, in the second quarter, the hope is to actually offer the real thing to citizens. Whether they will be able to keep this advantageous timetable, however, is something that remains to be seen.
Virgin Galactic has a history of delaying its official commercial spaceflight launch. Most recently the company pulled back to focus on upgrading, refreshing and prepping their vehicles for flight. The company is expecting all remaining work to wrap up by this December.
However, even when Virgin Galactic starts launching commercial spaceflights it will likely be a long while before the average person without any type of clout or business influence will be able to snag a ticket. First, to kick things off Virgin Galactic will treat the Italian Airforce to their own special maiden commercial spaceflight.
Then, the company must whittle through its waitlist of about 800 long. The list consists of mostly private customers who made commercial spaceflight reservations in advance. The translation there is that these are people with the cold hard cash to score themselves a trip to space while the rest of the world is reeling from severe inflation.
Regardless, the idea is that eventually, space tourism by means of commercial spaceflight will become more accessible to the average person looking to embark on an epic vacation. Virgin Galactic is looking ahead, too. The company is already teasing its purported next generation of “delta-class” rockets.
Delta-class ships will likely debut after the Virgin Galactic second series ship, called the Imagine, starts making commercial spaceflights. Imagine will join Unity and Eve – the two ships slated to begin voyaging next year.
Furthermore, Virgin Galactic has a lot in the works in the means of fleshing out its commercial spaceflight program and fleet. Now it’s just a matter of actually making their big plans a reality. With its 2023 timetable in place, Colglazier remarked “We are reassessing its schedule for entering commercial service.” This suggests that there could be more delays despite their reported commitment to start regular flights in 2023.
Colglazier highlighted that its Delta Class ship development plans could hinder how fast the Imagine could be completed and ready to make commercial spaceflights. It remains unclear if the development of either series of ships will have any impact on the schedule that Virgin Galactic has committed to for Unity and Eve. Ultimately, Virgin Galactic has talked the talked, now the world is simply waiting to see if they can walk the walk.