A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to commercial human space travel (see also previous space tourism related posts):
** Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic move agonizingly slowly towards operational flights. After successful tests early this year (SpaceShipTwo in February and New Shepard in May ), there seemed to be high momentum in both programs towards more frequent flights, including New Shepard flights with people finally on board. However, neither program has flown since those tests.
Virgin Galactic has focused instead on outfitting the interior of the SpaceShipTwo with seats and other features needed for the spaceflight participants. VG has also been moving its base of operations from Mojave, California to Spaceport America in New Mexico (see entry below about the spaceport). Blue has been upgrading the New Shepard for operational spaceflights. Both companies claim they will do a few more test flights and then start flying customers in 2020.
Here are some misc. items about the state of the two programs:
In a suborbital space tourism panel, Clare Pelly of Virgin Galactic says the VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo will be flown from Mojave to Spaceport America in New Mexico around the end of this year for final flight tests before beginning commercial service in 2020. #IAC2019
— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) October 23, 2019
— Alan Boyle (@b0yle) October 23, 2019
Greg Johnson, senior VP of New Shepard at Blue Origin, mentioned in passing that the company will have a program to fly poets and artists on its suborbital vehicle, but no details. Says there’s room in space tourism market for both Blue and Virgin. #IAC2019
— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) October 23, 2019
- Blue Origin’s CEO says first space trips on New Shepard will cost ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ – GeekWire
- Blue Origin gets closer to flying people to the edge of space – Axios
- Blue Origin: Over 2 more New Shepard rocket tests before first people – CNBC
** Under Armour debuts specially designed space wear for Virgin Galactic flyers:
- Virgin Galactic Partners with Under Armour to Unveil the World’s First Exclusive Spacewear System for Private Astronauts – Virgin Galactic
- UA Reveals Technical Spacewear for Virgin Galactic | UA Newsroom
** In July, Virgin Galactic announced plans to go public via a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), a publicly traded company created solely to acquire a revenue producing company. The company claims a value of $1.5 billion. By 2023 they project flying SpaceShipTwo vehicles 270 times per year and carrying over 600 people. Annual profits are predicted to reach $275M.
[ Update: VG statement on the shareholder approval: Virgin Galactic Completes Merger with Social Capital Hedosophia, Creating the World’s First and Only Publicly Traded Commercial Human Spaceflight Company – Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic (“VG”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, and Social Capital Hedosophia (“SCH”), a public investment vehicle, today announced the completion of their previously announced business combination. The resulting company is named Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (“VGH”) and its common stock, units and warrants are expected to commence trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the new ticker symbol “SPCE”, ”SPCE.U” and “SPCE WS”, respectively, on October 28, 2019. The Company manufactures its space vehicles in Mojave, California, through its aerospace development subsidiary The Spaceship Company, with commercial operations centered at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
VG already has customer reservations from more than 600 people in 60 countries representing approximately $80 million in total collected deposits, and over $120 million of potential revenue. The completion of this merger and trading as a public company are the next milestones on the path towards building a thriving commercial service business and investing appropriately for the future.
This week the merger was approved by SCH shareholders: Virgin Galactic merger wins shareholder approval – SpaceNews.com
[SCH] said it expects the merged company to start trading Oct. 28 under the Virgin Galactic name and the ticker symbol SPCE. Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson, speaking at a conference in Israel Oct. 23, said he planned to be at the exchange Oct. 28 to ring the opening bell, according to Israeli media reports.
The merger will make Virgin Galactic the first publicly traded company whose primary line of business is human spaceflight. Large aerospace companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have long been traded on stock exchanges, but space is only a small part of their overall business.
Earlier items about the merger:
- Virgin Galactic and Social Capital Hedosophia Announce Merger to Create the World’s First and Only Publicly Traded Commercial Human Spaceflight Company – Virgin Galactic
- Virgin Galactic: Leader in Human Spaceflight – Investor Presentation/SEC
- Richard Branson space unit Virgin Galactic plans to go public – CNBC
- Virgin Galactic: Space tourism flights in a year, profitable in 2021 – CNBC
** Spaceport America declared ready for operations at open house event in August:
- An “operationally ready” spaceport – The Space Review
- Virgin Galactic Opens the Doors to the ‘Gateway to Space’ – Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic today revealed the first look at the interior fit-out of its Gateway to Space building at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The work completed showcased two floors of the building primarily focused on spaceflight operations, which also incorporates communal spaces designed for use in the future by Virgin Galactic customers, along with their friends and families. Completion of this interior work means the spaceport facility is now operationally functional and able to support Virgin Galactic’s flight requirements.
** Profile of a Virgin Galactic spaceflight participant: She was first Pakistani to visit the North and South poles. Now she’ll be the first in space – Orlando Sentinel
After travels to the North and South Poles and skydiving over Mount Everest, Namira Salim wants to go to the next level of adventure:
The Earthly accomplishments were fine, sure, but for Salim, whose dreams have turned skyward since birth, they just filled the gap while she waited to obtain the “first” she’s been after all along.
“I’ve been inspired to do more,” she told the Orlando Sentinel while on a trip to Cocoa Beach for the Apollo 11 moon landing 50th anniversary. “So first of all, I think I should go as far as possible on Earth before I break the orbit.”
That’s right — the “first” that Salim is seeking won’t take place on our planet at all, not really. She wants to become the first Pakistani to fly to space. And with her $200,000 ticket on Virgin Galactic’s suborbital flights, she’s well on her way.
** An overview of space tourism prospects: The Coming of Space Tourism | Via Satellite
As timing for the first Earth-bound launches of space tourists grows near, the public, governments and the innovation sector continue to hold their collective breath.
Many predict that once the first space tourism mission starts flying, it will spur a lot of activity.
To Lopez-Urdiales, the world is currently in the second of three phases of space activity — the first began with government-sponsored programs like the Apollo program and continued to the present day, with space projects backed by billionaires. It’s only in the third phase — when a broader base of entrepreneurs with cool ideas are funded and can compete for market share — will space tourism be sustainable, he says.
“When that happens and the financial sector invests in not only the Musks of the world but also in folks like us, space tourism will truly take off,” he concludes.
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