A look at the latest developments in private space travel
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio are reportedly ready to take off...to space. They are among the rich and famous who are said to have purchased their tickets for Virgin Galactic’s inaugural flight to space. They will be sharing cabin space with the founder of Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson, among others. The maiden private commercial flight is scheduled to take off at the end of this year.
This sector could generate billions of dollars in new business for Virgin Galactic in the future. Virgin Galactic estimates the total addressable market is $900 billion.
The first batch of tickets is selling for $250,000, but the steep price hasn’t deterred the determined future space tourists, as there is already a waiting list. Travelers have to register with a refundable $1,000 deposit and wait for the next batch of tickets.
Virgin Galactic is not just gearing up for the big day but also set on revolutionizing travel on Earth. It is planning to use supersonic speed technology to make travel between continents faster than we can imagine.
Monetizing space tourism will generate billions of dollars in new business for the company. It plans to reinvest a part of that money and use proprietary technologies to develop high-speed global mobility vehicles. If Virgin Galactic succeeds in developing these modes of transport, the company will help drastically reduce international travel time.
While Virgin Galactic is confident of being first in the race and grabbing a larger market share, SpaceX averred that it plans to be No. 1 in the sector with its spaceflights for the masses.
While the announcement is not new, its partnership with space tourism company Space Adventures is new indeed. Together they will send tourists into Earth’s orbit, a tour that will cost more than Virgin’s but will run longer as well.
By 2022 or earlier, the SpaceX Crew Dragon space capsule will take four lucky travelers for a five-day trip around the Earth. It will be a historic event because, except for the Apollo and Gemini astronauts, these space tourists will be the only ones to travel farthest from the Earth.
The Crew Dragon accelerates fast to attain orbital velocity and reach a higher altitude than the International Space Station. It can orbit the Earth several times before landing at sea. Though they haven’t specified the cost, SpaceX has hinted that their space will cost much more than the $250,000 that Virgin Galactic is planning to charge.
An older UBS report stated that SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket has the potential to revolutionize long-haul airplane flights that are more than 10 hours in duration. It can fly as many as 100 people around the world in minutes. It remains to be seen whether SpaceX will use their technology to improve travel on Earth, but the possibility is strong. For now, it is offering the option to stay in space. The NASA-Axiom Space tie-up will create the first international space station where livable, commercial modules can dock by 2024.
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