Virgin Galactic: everything you need to know about the Richard Branson-founded spaceflight company
Virgin Galactic is a private American space company founded by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group with its headquarters in California and operates from New Mexico.
The company's first flight launched in 2018, which was pushed back eight years due to several factors. The company has a focus on commercial flight and is the world's first commercial spaceline. But what does the company do, and what have they got planned for the future? Here is what you need to know.
Who is Virgin Galactic?
Virgin Galactic is a private space tourism company founded by billionaire businessman Richard Branson in 2004. The name was first registered in 1999, and it is included in 50 Branson-owned companies of the Virgin brand. It is headquartered in California and employs 823 people with Michael Colglazier as CEO, Doug Ahrens as CFO and Mike Moses as President of Safety.
The company shot to fame after the Ansari X Prize competition at the turn of the millennium saw Branson back the winning SpaceShipOne designed by Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites, where the rocket launched crewed spaceflights between September to October 2004.
In 2021, Branson boarded VSS Unity himself for the spacecraft's fourth suborbital flight after the rocket's previous four suborbital flight attempts were all flown by Virgin Galactic's Chief Pilot Dave Mackay where all but one was successfully flown past NASA's not-quite-Kármán line. VSS Unity flew again on May 25, 2023, ending another hiatus for the vehicle.
A spin-off company, Virgin Orbit, used the same launch approach to achieve orbital launch but was shut down in May 2023.
What are Virgin Galactic's aims?
Virgin Galatic has its sights on becoming a commercial spaceflight company, as Branson has a long history of founding the Virgin Group and the Virgin Atlantic airline, and has a long personal history of balloon and surface record-breaking activities.
In 2004, Virgin Galactic began advertising flights to space beginning at $200k per seat, on an updated version of SpaceShipOne, SpaceShipTwo. As of May 2023, that price is at $450k, and there are around 700 customers "on the list" - with the aim of having roughly three launches per month. In June 2023, the company announced it would launch the first commercial space tourism flight called Galactic 01 later in the month - which was successful. On 29 June 2023, Virgin Galactic launched its first commercial space flight successfully.