It has been 20 years since the first tourist ventured into space, and 10 years have passed since Richard Branson originally hoped to escape the bondage of Earth’s gravity on the Virgin Galactic spacecraft.

But as the founder of Virgin will finally board a rocket ship this weekend, and rival billionaire Jeff Bezos is aiming for heaven in nine days, commercial space tourism may finally be close to taking off.

Branson, 70, plans to take the VSS Unity to the edge of space over the desert of New Mexico early on Sunday morning local time. The winged spacecraft will be transported by a specially designed aircraft to approximately 50,000 feet, and then released and launched a solid fuel rocket to soar to more than 80 kilometers.

Branson has stated that he intends to use this flight as an informal launch of Virgin Galactic’s space tourism business.The company is given Green light The US Federal Aviation Administration began operating a commercial service last month, which is the last obstacle to its ability to carry up to six paying passengers per flight in the future.

Branson also tried to use the publicity generated by his personal flight to make full use of the previous marketing window. Bezos’ own flight Ride the blue origin rocket.

Branson said that a successful launch will open the door to mature space tourism. It will also provide a boost for a company whose wealth has become the core of the well-being of the entire Virgin Group.

Branson holds approximately 24% of Virgin Galactic’s shares, currently valued at slightly less than US$3 billion, and is his most important source of liquidity in difficult times. After the company went public early last year and its stock price soared, he sold $300 million worth of stock to help support Virgin Atlantic and other companies affected by the epidemic.

The highly volatile stock price is closely related to expectations of when the company is ready to start commercial operations. Due to the long-term delay of the test program, Branson’s share value fell below US$1 billion in May, and then rebounded strongly after the test program ended. First successful flight Within two years.

Comparison of Bezos and Branson’s spacecraft: mission profile

The resumption of ticket sales after a successful flight this weekend will provide important financial support.They were suspended in 2014 After the accident Virgin’s spacecraft disintegrated shortly after launching the rocket, causing the death of a test pilot and delaying its plan for several years.

Based on the rate at which cash was burned last year, Virgin Galactic had about two and a half years of cash on hand when it last disclosed its financial situation. Its next challenge will be to increase its financial reserves through re-sales, while pacifying hundreds of potential astronauts who have been waiting to fly for many years.

Branson has said that the price of the inaugural flight ticket will be much higher than the price of up to $250,000 that the company charged in early sales. He said that higher prices will help the company begin to recover its huge development costs and reflect the initial scarcity of seats. More than 600 people paid an average of approximately US$130,000 per person. Last year, when the sales window reopened, another 1,000 people paid a $1,000 deposit.

Stock price (USD) line chart shows Virgin Galactic: rising like a rocket

Virgin Galactic has prepared many parts to support its Plan travel businessThey include a production line that started building a series of spacecraft, and eventually reached the 30-40-person fleet that Branson hopes to be able to transport passengers from all over the world. The company also has a base in the “Spaceport” in New Mexico, a $220 million development project funded by taxpayers. It was completed more than a decade ago and hopes to become a major tenant soon.

Branson’s own flight evokes people’s desire to flirt with adventure and physical danger, which has long been part of his personal brand and is now likely to set the tone for the company’s marketing. Blue Origin’s spacecraft is mounted on the tip of its Shepard rocket and is designed to fly freely in the event of an accident. When there is a problem with the unmanned test flight, the procedure has been successfully triggered. VSS Unity does not have such an escape mechanism.

Using Sunday’s flight to showcase the adventure and excitement of space exploration may be the last resort in Branson’s long-term dream of building a space business-provided that Virgin Galactic’s wealthy customers also believe they will return as one.


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