About 700 people have now committed to fly with Virgin Galactic.

virgin galactic sells 100 new tickets for space tourist launches
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson soars like Superman while in weightlessness during his Unity 22 launch on the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity on July 11, 2021. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic’s customer list has grown by more than 15% in the last few months.

About 100 people have bought tickets to ride to suborbital space and back since Virgin Galactic reopened sales in August, company representatives said Monday (Nov. 8) in a quarterly earnings call with investors. 

Virgin Galactic now has about 700 folks in its customer pool. The company aims to boost that number to 1,000 by the time it begins commercial operations, a milestone currently pegged for late 2022, Virgin Galactic representatives said.

In photos: Virgin Galactic’s 1st fully crewed spaceflight with Richard Branson

The 100 new customers are paying $450,000 apiece for their space trips. That’s considerably more than their predecessors; in the previous round of ticket sales, which closed in late 2018, the price was $250,000 per seat.

The new sales have come in the wake of Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed spaceflight, a test mission that sent Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and three other passengers, plus two pilots, to suborbital space on July 11 aboard the company’s space plane VSS Unity. 

After that flight, known as Unity 22, “we opened up kind of our interest list,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said during Monday’s call. 

“And we had around 60,000 people say, ‘Yes, please send me information about your product, your spaceflight. I’m interested in flying to space,'” Colglazier added. “We think many, many of those people will want to actually make the trip, with all of what’s involved.”

VSS Unity lifts off beneath the wings of a carrier plane known as VMS Eve. Once the pair reach an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), the space plane drops free, fires up its rocket motor and makes its own way to suborbital space. People aboard the six-passenger, two-pilot vehicle experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curve of Earth against the blackness of space. 

Unity now has four suborbital test flights under its belt. But it won’t take to the skies again for a while; Virgin Galactic is currently performing maintenance and enhancement work on Eve, a lengthy project expected to keep the carrier plane out of action until mid-2022. 

“These modifications will increase the service life of the vehicle overall,” Colglazier said. “The culmination of these efforts, subject to testing and verification, will see us target Eve to complete 100 flights between major maintenance inspections, up from the current interval of 10 flights between inspections.”

Eve and Unity are the only vehicles currently in Virgin Galactic’s fleet, but that will change soon. A space plane called VSS Imagine is expected to begin unpowered “glide flight” testing next year, Colglazier said. Another space plane, VSS Inspire, is also being built.

And even more space planes will be manufactured, if all goes according to plan. Virgin Galactic aims to eventually conduct 400 flights per year from each of the spaceports at which it operates, Colglazier said. (For now, those operations are centered at Spaceport America in New Mexico, which hosted VSS Unity’s two most recent spaceflights.) 

“I think to reach that level, we’re going to need — like, the words we’ve been using [are] ‘high single digit, low double digits,'” Colglazier said, referring to the space planes at each site. “So, that’s the number we need.”

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

TECH NEWS RELATED

Newborn star (unsuccessfully) plays 'hide-and-seek' in gas cloud

A big gas jet helped Hubble spot the youngster.

View more: Newborn star (unsuccessfully) plays 'hide-and-seek' in gas cloud

Massive simulation of the universe probes mystery of ghostly neutrinos

An artist’s depiction of a galaxy with a quasar at its center. (Image credit: NASA, ESA and J. Olmsted (STScI)) Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at SUNY Stony Brook and the Flatiron Institute, host of “Ask a Spaceman” and “Space Radio,” and author of “How to Die in Space.” ...

View more: Massive simulation of the universe probes mystery of ghostly neutrinos

NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Launch Scrubbed Again

Launch of an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on May 18, 2021. Credit: United Launch Alliance The December 6 launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket carrying the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission has been scrubbed. ...

View more: NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Launch Scrubbed Again

Earliest sunset for 40 degrees N. around now

View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Luka Milevoj caught this early sunset on November 23, 2021 above Pula, a seafront city in Croatia. Thank you, Luka! Earliest sunset not on shortest day For the southernmost U.S. and similar latitudes – around 30 degrees north latitude – the earliest sunsets ...

View more: Earliest sunset for 40 degrees N. around now

First live class from space scheduled on Thursday

Screen image captured at Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 16, 2021 shows three Chinese astronauts, Zhai Zhigang (C), Wang Yaping (R) and Ye Guangfu, waving after entering the space station core module Tianhe. /Xinhua The very first live class from Chinese astronauts will be ...

View more: First live class from space scheduled on Thursday

Four Filter Fusion: Hubble Captures a Stunning Stellar Whirlpool

Hubble Space Telescope image of spiral galaxy NCG 7329, captured with Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Riess et al. This stellar whirlpool is a spiral galaxy named NCG 7329, which has been imaged by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Creating a colorful image ...

View more: Four Filter Fusion: Hubble Captures a Stunning Stellar Whirlpool

China's research ship Tansuo-1 returns after fruitful deep-sea expedition

China’s self-developed deep-sea manned submersible Fendouzhe. /China Media Group China’s scientific research ship Tansuo-1 returned to a port in Sanya City, south China’s Hainan Province, on Sunday, after completing its deep-ocean expedition to the Mariana Trench. Aboard the research vessel was China’s self-developed deep-sea manned submersible Fendouzhe (Striver), which ...

View more: China's research ship Tansuo-1 returns after fruitful deep-sea expedition

Taiwan rushes to contain sudden cane toad invasion

Toads are a symbol of prosperity and good fortune in Taiwan, but the unexpected discovery of an invasive species has officials and environmentalists scrambling to contain their spread. With flashlights in hand and shielded by protective gloves, dozens of volunteers from the Taiwan Amphibian Conservation Society worked through the ...

View more: Taiwan rushes to contain sudden cane toad invasion

Yusaku Maezawa: irreverent billionaire fascinated by space

Taliban reject claims of 'summary killings' of ex-security forces

Governments help arms firms avoid Covid slump: report

Iran's Raisi says working to lift sanctions

Putin to land in India with eye on military, energy ties

Russia to send Japanese tycoon to ISS in return to space tourism

New 'Halo' game debuts as Xbox turns 20

NASA, ULA STP-3 Launch Delayed to December 7, Here’s How to Watch

Elon Musk Tweets About His Car Orbiting Mars, Gets Corrected by a Harvard Professor

Elon Musk Should Be Stopped From Making ‘Rules in Space:’ European Space Agency Head

If There are Water Plumes on Europa, Here’s how Europa Clipper Will Study Them

Fortnite's Chapter 3 Battle Pass includes a moon-themed Ronin skin

OTHER TECH NEWS

;