Virgin Galactic Joins SpaceX, Blue Origin in Space

In what could be a new “pay now, launch later” use case readying for liftoff, Virgin Galactic is open for consumer business as of Wednesday (Feb. 16), with tickets starting at just $450,000.

The spacefaring arm of embattled Virgin Atlantic Airways said in a Tuesday (Feb. 15) announcement, “ticket sales will open to the general public starting on Feb. 16, providing the opportunity to purchase one of the initial spaceflight reservations and secure membership in the unique community of Future Astronauts.”

Incidentally, Range Rover created an “Astronaut Edition” available only to those who fly with Virgin Galactic. Price tags hover around $145,000. It doesn’t fly. Here’s a video.

As these things go, Virgin Galactic’s open rate of $450,000 for a weightless suborbital experience is the new budget carrier for space tourism. Recall that Justin Sun, founder of blockchain platform Tron, bid $28 million for a seat on a Blue Origin flight in July.

Saying it intends to have signed up 1,000 paying passengers by “the start of commercial service later this year,” the “pay now, launch later” laugh is at the expense of the $150,000 deposit aspiring astronauts must put down to reserve a seat on Sir Richard Branson’s spaceship.

The company said, “customers will make their final payment before their flight.”

Read also: Space Tourism Becomes the Final Fun-tier

Virgin has struggled with the economics of commercial aviation, merging Virgin America with Alaska Airlines in 2016. Virgin Atlantic sought Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in 2020.

In December, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Under its new business plan, Virgin Atlantic, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines Inc., expects to start making money again in 2023,” adding that “it had secured a $530 million investment split evenly between Delta and Virgin Group to help expand flying to the U.S. and weather any further disruption from omicron and the slower winter months.”

Virgin stock rose 30% as news of the commercial service hit the wires.

With its eyes now fixed on the stars, Virgin Galactic is intent on avoiding financial asteroids.

In Tuesday’s announcement, Virgin Galactic President and Chief Business Officer of Commercial and Consumer Operations Blair Rich said, “We have developed a compelling and effective sales process to support the growth of our commercial business. A global, commercial spaceline demands an iconic and timeless brand. It is important that our brand represents our dynamic customer offering and speaks to our unique experience, style and service.”

That $450,000 price tag includes membership to a “Future Astronaut community” that promises “access to money-can’t-buy experiences, events, trips and space-readiness activities while they await their spaceflight.”

In a well-timed piece of coincidental news, Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of payments processing firm Shift4 and a passenger on the first commercial SpaceX flight announced in a Monday (Feb. 14) press release that he has purchased several more spaceflights with that operator.

Isaacman made that announcement as he took the wraps off his own Polaris Program, which is partnering with SpaceX on a series of flights featuring commercial spaceflight firsts, including the first space tourism spacewalk and the highest Earth orbit ever flown.

“The first mission, Polaris Dawn, is targeted for no earlier than the fourth quarter of this year and will be commanded by Isaacman, an accomplished pilot and astronaut who led Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit that helped raise over $240 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” according to the release.

Polaris Dawn isn’t selling seats, but with a four-member crew capacity and a fundraising precedent of $240 million, the simple math works out to $60 million per seat.

See also: Space Tech Sees Investment Boost With Billionaire Space Missions



About: Seventy percent of BNPL users say they’d rather use installment plans offered by their banks — if only they were made available. PYMNTS’ Banking On Buy Now, Pay Later: Installment Payments And FIs’ Untapped Opportunity, surveyed more than 2,200 U.S. consumers to better understand how consumers view banks as BNPL providers in a sea of BNPL pure-plays.