Today, UK entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson announced that his Virgin Group has entered into an agreement to license the technology to develop the world’s first privately funded spaceship. They are dedicated to carrying commercial passengers on space flights. The technology is currently owned by a Paul Allen company called Mojave Aerospace Ventures (‘M.A.V.’) and was originally developed to fulfil Paul Allen’s vision of building the world’s first privately funded, reusable space vehicle (‘SpaceShipOne’). This will undertake its first Ansari X Prize flight later this week. The licensing deal with M.A.V. could be worth up to £14 million ($21.5 million) over the next fifteen years depending on the number of spaceships built by Virgin.
Virgin has formed Virgin Galactic (‘V.G.’) a new company, which will become the world’s first commercial space tourism operator. It is envisaged that Virgin Galactic will open for business by the beginning of 2005 and subject to the necessary safety and regulatory approvals begin operating flights from 2007. The name was first registered and trade mark protection applied for in the mid 1990s. It is expected that around £60 million ($100 million) will be invested in developing the new generation of spaceships and ground infrastructure required to operate a sub orbital space tourism experience. Over five years Virgin expects to create around 3000 astronauts and the price per seat on each flight, which will include at least three days of pre-flight training, are expected to start at around £115,000 ($190,000).
I confess to having signed up - for more information. Having travelled on Virgin Trains though, I hope there are no breakdowns once this sort of thing becomes routine.