Musk-Branson space race heats up as Virgin Galactic announces commercial space mission

Months after Elon Musk’s SpaceX sent off world’s first privately funded crewed space mission to the International Space Station with four members aboard, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic announced plans to launch its first commercial passenger space mission Galactic 01.

The launch of Galactic 01 has been announced nearly two years after Richard Branson’s personal space journey in July 2021. 

The development takes place weeks after Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket launched the Unity 25 mission in what was deemed as a test launch before the final one. The test flight named Unity 25 successfully transported six company employees to the edge of space and back on May 25, 2023. 

This mission served as the final evaluation of the entire spaceflight system and astronaut experience before commencing commercial flights.

The final launch of Galactic 01 is poised to take place potentially as early as June 27.

Also watch | Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic’s successful space flight

This milestone flight will include researchers from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy and will signify the commencement of Virgin Galactic’s commercial operations after facing numerous delays. 

The mission will finally fulfill the long-awaited dreams of the space tourists who had purchased expensive tickets to fly aboard the company’s spacecraft.

Galactic 02 to take off right after Galactic 01

Following the completion of Galactic 01, Virgin Galactic intends to proceed with Galactic 02, its second commercial flight, slated for early August. 

The crew for Galactic 02 has not been disclosed but the company hinted that this flight might finally accommodate the tourists who placed initial deposits on their seats several years ago. 

800 people from 66 countries booked tickets to space

CEO Michael Colglazier expressed enthusiasm, stating that this commercial debut would grant access to approximately 800 individuals from 66 countries who have already reserved their seats.

Each ticket has reportedly cost the prospective space travelers $450,000 or ₹36.54 million.

Virgin Galactic recently resumed spaceflight activities after a hiatus of nearly two years. 

While Virgin Galactic had initially planned to begin commercial operations after Richard Branson’s personal space journey in July 2021, the start date had been repeatedly postponed due to ongoing enhancements to their spacecraft. 


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