Virgin Galactic’s first private passenger spaceflight will launch as soon as August 10th

Now that Virgin Galactic has flown its first commercial spaceflight, it’s ready to take civilians aboard. The company now expects to launch its first private passenger flight, Galactic 02, as soon as August 10th. Virgin isn’t yet revealing the names of everyone involved, but there will be three passengers alongside the usual crew. You can watch a live stream on the company website.

The inaugural commercial flight, Galactic 01, flew in late June. However, all three passengers were Italian government workers (two from the Air Force and one research council member) conducting microgravity studies. While it’s not clear what 02’s civilian crew will do, they can be tourists this time around.

The firm has been ramping up its operations in recent months after numerous delays from previous years. While Galactic 02 is just Virgin’s seventh spaceflight of any kind, it’s the third in 2023. The company says it’s establishing a “regular cadence” of flights, and you can expect them to become relatively routine if this voyage goes as planned.

The improved frequency is important for the company’s finances. Virgin has operated at a loss for years, and lost over $500 million in 2022. The business won’t recoup those losses any time soon even at $450,000 per ticket, but paying customers are key to softening the blow and making a case for space tourism.

Blue Origin and SpaceX have already flown civilians into space, and at altitudes higher than the 50-plus miles Virgin flies. However, they haven’t established regular launch schedules for tourists. SpaceX’s lunar trips won’t happen until the company can finish testing Starship, and Blue Origin is waiting to resume flights following a rocket failure in 2022. In that regard, Virgin may be the closest to achieving its tourism goals — so long as maintains the pace it’s setting this summer.

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