By Seth Gellman
Virgin Galactic took a big step toward commercial aviation to the edge of space as one of their rockets reached the edge of space on May 22. The company, owned by Author Sir Richard Branson, hopes to be flying paying customers next year. There are already 600 customers ready to pay between $200,000 and $250,000. These customers include movie stars and celebrities.
Pilots Dave Mackay and CJ Sturckow shot up 55 miles before gliding back down to earth. The US government acknowledges the 50-mile mark as the edge of space. However, the rocket used, Unity, is not fully licensed. The US Federal Aviation Administration is still following the rocket after an electronic interference issue that aborted a flight in December.
This was far from the first time that this rocket flew, the sixth in fact, but it was the first time that it flew out of the newly-built commercial hub Spaceport America in New Mexico.
News of the flight excited investors as stocks soared up 14% in the week before the flight. The new CEO, Michael Colglazier, said that he wanted to fly at least 400 flights per year in the future.
Branson isn’t alone, however. Both Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are developing programs that may permit space tourism in the future, showing the promise billionaires see in the market. Seven billionaires funded trips for themselves to go to the International Space Station in the 2000s, and the market is only increasing. Some visualize space hotels or permanent living on other planets. As the market grows, ideas and opportunities will arise as well.