Virgin Galactic and Space Tourism

Richard Branson's flamboyant Virgin Galactic has reignited the desire for space by unveiling a space tourism plan for 2026
Render of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Eve vehicle. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Delta is the name chosen by Virgin Galactic for the new fleet of vehicles for space tourism. The operation will kick off with one flight per week starting from 2026. The company of CEO Richard Branson, a british aerospace entrepreneur, has already conducted four crewed suborbital test flights.

Financial Troubles

The successful maiden flight, conducted in July 2021, went down in history thanks to an extraordinary marketing campaign. The launch with the English billionaire on board also marked the success of the first full crew of SpaceShipTwo. A year after that achievement, Virgin Galactic postponed the return to orbit multiple times. The cause was supply problems related to pandemic-driven updates of the Vss Eve, the mothership.

Due to these reasons, many investors withdrew. The company’s stocks have dropped by about 90% compared to a year ago. In anticipation of quarterly results, the company released statements about industrial agreements and announced its future spaceflight plans. The detailed bulletin announced two new supply contracts for Delta and the support of the current generation of SpaceShipTwo for Axiom astronauts.

Branson’s company has agreed to prepare an Axiom astronaut for weightlessness before a flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Axiom, based in Houston, has three commercial flights booked with Elon Musk’s SpaceX: from Ax-2 to Ax-4, following the success of Ax-1 in April.

Commercial Agreements

The companies that will produce parts for the Delta fleet from 2023 are Bell Textron. The American company is committed to building the reentry system along with the flight control surfaces. Qarbon Aerospace, on the other hand, will produce the vehicle’s fuselage and wing. Last July, Virgin Galactic signed a contract with its subsidiary Boeing Aurora Flight Sciences to build two new motherships designed to fly up to 200 times a year.

2022 ended with new announcements for Branson’s company. Virgin Galactic promises to reach the figure of 400 flights per year to strengthen its leadership in space tourism, and as if that weren’t enough, it aims to do so with two new motherships and a fleet of new spaceplanes. We can only wait for 2026.

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