Business is booming.

Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin: Players in Space Tourism

  • Virgin Galactic launched its first space tourism flight for paying customers on August 10.
  • It marks a new era in space tourism for the company, with monthly flights expected to follow. 
  • Space tourism is a growing industry for the rich. Seats on a Virgin Galactic flight cost $450,000 each.

This week, Virgin Galactic’s first space tourism flight successfully launched from New Mexico, taking three passengers who weren’t traditional astronauts, to the edge of space and back.

Blasting off to the edge of space has become a more popular — though hardly mainstream — tourism experience. The company intends on operating commercial flights every month, ushering in a new era for space travel. 

Galactic 02’s passengers included Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, a mother and daughter from the Caribbean who won their seats in a ticket raffle, as well as Jon Goodwin, an 80-year-old former Olympian

Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s commercial space venture, was established in 2004 and completed its first commercial spaceflight in June. On the flight were three passengers from the Italian Air Force and National Research Council. 

Space tourism translates to big business for the company: In its second quarter earnings report, Virgin Galactic attributed an increase in quarterly revenue from $0.4 in 2022 to $2 million this year to “commercial spaceflight and membership fees related to future astronauts.” 

Tickets for a seat on a Virgin Galactic rocket can cost $450,000, though some, like Goodwin, bought their tickets over a decade ago for $250,000.

The steep price doesn’t seem to be keeping people away. As of the end of last year, about 800 tickets for commercial spaceflights had been reserved, the company said in its 2022 annual report. These tickets will translate to about $207 million in future revenue, per the report.

Virgin Galactic is not the only company in the game. In July 2021, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin sent four people, including Bezos, 62 miles above Earth, marking the first passenger spaceflight completed by the Amazon chairman’s company, which was founded in 2000. 

Using a rocket called New Shepard, Blue Origin has completed six human spaceflights since.

There’s also SpaceX, Elon Musk‘s rocket company, which was founded in 2002 and is making concerted efforts in the commercial spaceflight industry.

In September 2021, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket took four civilians close to orbit without any professional astronauts on board. It was the first all-civilian crew to successfully complete a mission and was funded entirely by billionaire Jared Issacman. 

The following year, SpaceX, in conjunction with Axiom Space, launched the first all-private crew to the International Space Station, where they spent more than a week. The four attendees spent $55 million each for the trip.

Of course, most of us mere mortals aren’t able to afford the price of entry into outer space. So until it becomes more affordable, here’s a look at the options available to space tourists:

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