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Virgin Galactic

Started by Taman Tun, February 22, 2014, 11:17:26 AM

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Virgin Galactic Just Got One Step Closer To Space Tourism | NBC News

Richard Branson is a step closer to getting to space

On Tuesday, Virgin Galactic, the company he founded more than a decade ago with the goal of flying tourists to the edge of space and back, performed another test flight over the Mojave Desert in California, US.

SpaceShipTwo "Unity," a winged space plane, went supersonic for the second time, firing its engine for just 31 seconds. But that was enough to power the vehicle to an altitude of nearly 22 miles (35km) and a maximum speed of almost Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound.

In an interview after the flight, Branson said, "It was as good as it gets today." The pilots, he said, "came back with massive beams on their faces. It's a big, big step today."

The company plans to have another test flight in about six weeks or so, he said, and then it could attempt to reach the edge of space on the next flight - but that would depend on how the vehicle performs in the test flights.

Virgin Galactic, which charges US$250,000 ($362,940) a ticket, has some 700 people signed up to fly, and Branson has said he would be among the first to go. To prepare for his flight, which he has said could come this year, the 67-year-old said he's been cycling, playing tennis in the morning and evening, and spending time in a centrifuge to get his body used to the additional gravitational forces passengers would experience on SpaceShipTwo.

Blue Origin, the space company owned by Jeff Bezos, is also aiming to fly its first test flights with people by the end of this year. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Branson said he expected that the companies would both "have a person in space roundabout the same time". But he said they "are not in a race to get to space.... All that matters in the end is that everybody is safe and well."

full article stuff.co.nz
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

Yes, getting closer.  Altitude 35 km.  The plan is to get above 100 km in order to be defined as space flight.  So they have a long way to go.  If you are a ticket holder you can relax for a very long time yet.
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


But i do love the pickle  :)  I Am Paying $200,000 for Five Minutes

On a blindingly bright January afternoon in 2010, I went to my bank to get a cashier's check for $20,000. It was my birthday, and I was buying myself the present I'd been waiting for my entire life: a trip to space.

This fat chunk of cash would become a 10 percent downpayment for a ticket aboard Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson's bold plan to hurl ordinary humans into space. To do this, Branson plans to use rocket planes that can carry space tourists 62 miles up and travel at three times the speed of sound. Ninety days before my trip, I'd need to pay the remaining $180,000. That's $200,000 for a five-minute sojourn beyond Earth's stratosphere.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

This from Wiki

Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004.

In July 2008, Richard Branson predicted the maiden space voyage would take place within 18 months.[2] In October 2009, Virgin Galactic announced that initial flights would take place from Spaceport America "within two years."[12] Later that year, Scaled Composite announced that White Knight Two's first SpaceShipTwo captive flights would be in early 2010.[13] Both aircraft did fly together in March 2010.[14] The credibility of the earlier promises of launch dates by Virgin Galactic were brought into question in October 2014 by its chief executive, George Whitesides, when he told The Guardian: “We’ve changed dramatically as a company. When I joined in 2010 we were mostly a marketing organisation. Right now we can design, build, test and fly a rocket motor all by ourselves and all in Mojave, which I don’t think is done anywhere else on the planet”
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


First space tourist flights could come in 2019

The two companies leading the pack in the pursuit of space tourism say they are just months away from their first out-of-this-world passenger flights -- though neither has set a firm date.

Virgin Galactic, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, and Blue Origin, by Amazon creator Jeff Bezos, are racing to be the first to finish their tests -- with both companies using radically different technology.

Moments of weightlessness

Neither Virgin nor Blue Origin's passengers will find themselves orbiting the Earth: instead, their weightless experience will last just minutes. It's an offering far different from the first space tourists, who paid tens of millions of dollars to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) in the 2000s.

Having paid for a much cheaper ticket -- costing $250,000 with Virgin, as yet unknown with Blue Origin -- the new round of space tourists will be propelled dozens of miles into the atmosphere, before coming back down to Earth. By comparison, the ISS is in orbit 250 miles (400 kilometers) from our planet.

The goal is to approach or pass through the imaginary line marking where space begins -- either the Karman line, at 100 kilometers or 62 miles, or the 50-mile boundary recognized by the US Air Force.

At this altitude, the sky looks dark and the curvature of the earth can be seen clearly.

Virgin Galactic

With Virgin Galactic, six passengers and two pilots are boarded onto SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, which resembles a private jet.

The VSS Unity will be attached to a carrier spacecraft -- the WhiteKnightTwo -- from which it will then detach at around 49,000 feet (15,000 metres.) Once released, the spaceship will fire up its rocket, and head for the sky.

Then, the passengers will float in zero-gravity for several minutes, before coming back to Earth.

The descent is slowed down by a "feathering" system that sees the spacecraft's tail pivot, as if arching, before returning to normal and gliding to land at Virgin's "spaceport" in the New Mexico desert.

In total, the mission lasts between 90 minutes and two hours. During a May 29 test in California's Mojave desert, the spaceship reached an altitude of 21 miles, heading for space.

In October 2014, the Virgin spaceship broke down in flight due to a piloting error, killing one of two pilots on board. The tests later resumed with a new craft.

The company has now also reached a deal to open a second "spaceport" at Italy's Tarente-Grottaglie airport, in the south of the country.

Branson in May told BBC Radio 4 that he hoped to himself be one of the first passengers in the next 12 months. About 650 people make up the rest of the waiting list, Virgin told AFP.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin, meanwhile, has developed a system closer to the traditional rocket: the New Shepard.

On this journey, six passengers take their place in a "capsule" fixed to the top of a 60-foot-long rocket. After launching, it detaches and continues its trajectory several miles toward the sky. During an April 29 test, the capsule made it 66 miles.

After a few minutes of weightlessness, during which passengers can take in the view through large windows, the capsule gradually falls back to earth with three large parachutes and retrorockets used to slow the spacecraft.

From take-off to landing, the flight took 10 minutes during the latest test.

Until now, tests have only been carried out using dummies at Blue Origin's West Texas site.

Company officials were recently quoted as saying the first tests with Blue Origin astronauts would take place "at the end of this year," with tickets for the public expected to go on sale in 2019.

But in comments to AFP Friday, the company struck a more cautious note.

"We have not set ticket pricing and have had no serious discussions inside of Blue on the topic," the firm said. "We have a flight test schedule and schedules of those types always have uncertainties and contingencies. Anyone predicting dates is guessing."

What's next?

SpaceX and Boeing are developing their own capsules to transport NASA astronauts, most likely in 2020, after delays -- a significant investment that the companies will likely make up for by offering private passenger flights.

"If you're looking to go to space, you'll have quadruple the menu of options that you ever had before," Phil Larson, assistant dean at the University of Colorado, Boulder's College of Engineering and Applied Science, told AFP.

Longer term, the Russian firm that manufactures Soyuz rockets is studying the possibility of taking tourists back to the ISS. And a US start-up called Orion Span announced earlier this year it hopes to place a luxury space hotel into orbit within a few years -- but the project is still in its early stages.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


Lots of fun throughout this thread, and just like Richard Branson, good for a laugh ;D

Noticed this today - to keep TT up to date . . .  ;)


Taman Tun

Roger, thanks for that.  I did see another report regarding the recent test which suggested that there are still vibration issues with the craft caused by the rocket motor.  Also payload appears to be an issue together whether the craft is actually able to reach the design height of 100km.  I liked this quote from Branson in the Guardian article:-

"Today we have shown that Virgin Galactic really can open space to change the world for good,” he said.  I wonder how the world will change?
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

So Branson still can't get it up.  What I cannot understand is why Virgin Galactic (SPCE) has a market capitalization of USD 3.3 billion when it still does not have a saleable product capable of taking the punters up for 4 minutes of weightlessness.  Branson is having to sell a bunch of shares in Galactic in order to prop up Virgin Atlantic.  The company involved in yesterday's failure is Virgin Orbit which is separate from Galactic. 

Don't forget, folks.  There are still some seats available on my Korat Intergalactic rocket departing in December for a flight to Mars.  Seat price only USD 10 million.  My usual terms apply: cash only, no receipts, no refunds.
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


Quote from: Taman Tun on May 26, 2020, 05:28:36 PM
So Branson still can't get it up. 

Don't forget, folks.  There are still some seats available on my Korat Intergalactic rocket departing in December for a flight to Mars.  Seat price only USD 10 million.  My usual terms apply: cash only, no receipts, no refunds.
so why are the seats so expensive T.T. on your trip - arr! social distancing just like the buses makes it that much more i suppose
so can he still get it up not so far  ;D  It was a case of jet drag than jet lag

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


Room with a view: Virgin Galactic gives peek at spacecraft cabin

The Virgin Galactic spaceship that will someday carry very moneyed tourists boasts windows and cameras galore for easy selfies with planet Earth.

The company, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, provided a virtual tour Tuesday of the inside of the ship that will transport people willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a brief taste of being at the edge of space.

Besides all the windows and cameras, the craft will have a mirror in the back of the cabin so people can admire themselves.

There is no firm date for the first commercial flight and the company has repeatedly pushed it back, but executives said recently it is a question of months and not years away.

Several test flights must still be made before Branson himself steps aboard.

The inside of the cabin, which will have seats for six passengers and a two-member crew, will feature 12 windows and 16 cameras. It is designed to give the best possible view of our planet.

An AFP reporter made a remote tour of the spacecraft with a virtual reality headset provided by the company. Each seat is close to a large oval-shaped porthole, and a camera is attached to each window in such a way that passengers can be photographed with Earth behind them, with no need to take a selfie of their own.

The travelers can unbuckle their seatbelts and float. Portholes in the ceiling will give them a spectacular view of the blue planet standing out against a jet black sky.

So far, 600 people who have paid up to $250,000 -- Virgin Galactic calls them "future astronauts" -- have been waiting for years to take their seat on SpaceShipTwo.

Its development has been delayed by a devastating crash of the first one in 2014 due to a pilot error.

The spacecraft will be taken up by a special plane and released in high altitude. Seconds later, the spaceship -- part plane, part rocket -- will ignite its engine and blast upward with an acceleration of 3.5 g, meaning three and a half times that of Earth's gravitational force.

It will then cut off the engine, which will create a feeling of weightlessness for a few minutes as the spacecraft reaches its highest point, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) above the planet, and then begin its descent like a cannonball.

It will glide to landing at a place called Spaceport America, built in the New Mexico desert.

As for fares to be paid by new customers, "we may see an increase for a bit," chief space officer George Whitesides told a virtual news conference Tuesday.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

"There is no firm date for the first commercial flight and the company has repeatedly pushed it back, but executives said recently it is a question of months and not years away.
Several test flights must still be made before Branson himself steps aboard."

The outstanding test flights involve the firing of the rocket.  All recent tests have only involved gliding to earth from the mother ship. Only a handful of tests have been done which involved the firing of the rocket and none of these reached the required altitude.

If the old only could, if the young only knew.


Virgin Galactic's Branson to fly into space in early 2021
(Reuters) - Billionaire Richard Branson will fly into space on a Virgin Galactic rocketship early next year, the space tourism company he founded said on Monday, adding that it would raise new funds with a share offering.

Branson's trip to space hinges on the success of two upcoming test flight programs, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc said, with the first powered spaceflight scheduled for this fall from Spaceport America.

The company competes with billionaire-backed ventures such as Blue Origin that are vying to usher in a new era of space tourism, racing to be the first to offer sub-orbital flights to civilian space travelers.

Virgin Galactic offers zero-gravity experiences to customers with its centerpiece SpaceShipTwo plane and has long-term point-to-point travel plans to quickly transport passengers from city to city at near-space altitudes.

Earlier in June, Virgin Galactic had signed an agreement with NASA to develop a program to promote private missions to the International Space Station.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

Branson has announced multiple times over the years that "this year" he will be going into space with his family.

The first ticket for a flight on Virgin Galactic was sold in 2005 to Ketty Maisonrouge.

So far, there have been 8 test flights where the rocket motor has been fired (As opposed to simple glides to earth from the mother ship). 

Dates of rocket powered flights below with the altitude reached.

29 April 2013  56,000 feet

5 September 2013 69,000 feet

10 January 2014  72,000 feet

31 October 2014 50,000 feet This is the test flight that crashed.

5 April 2018 84,000 feet

29 May 2018 114,000 feet

26 July 2018 171,000 feet

13 December 2018  271,000 feet

SpaceShipTwo is designed to carry six passengers, along with two pilots, close to the boundary of space. Commercial flights of the vehicle are expected to fly to an altitude of at least 50 miles, 264,000 feet (80 kilometers). The Kármán line — the internationally-recognized boundary of space — lies at the 62-mile, 327,000 feet (100-kilometer) mark.

So the December 2018 test was still 55,000 feet short of the recognized boundary with space.

Virgin Galactic still needs to do a lot more testing before passenger service will be permitted.

SPCE shares- Avoid

If the old only could, if the young only knew.


WOW! great stuff there T.T. Thanks. you certainly will send r/b a lot higher if he gets to read your post 

Dick is often used to shorten the Name Richard   :lol
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

Here are a few Virgin predictions of start of service taken from a variety of sources:-

Sept. 27, 2004 - Parabolic Arc

Branson launches Virgin Galactic Airways with plans to fly tourists on suborbital flights in the 2007-08 period. The company will license SpaceShipOne technology from Paul Allen; Scaled Composites will build the follow-on vehicle.

October 22, 2010 - Parabolic Arc

Virgin Galactic and New Mexico officials dedicate the runway at the partially completed Spaceport America. The runway is officially named the Governor Bill Richardson Spaceway.

Branson predicts that commercial space tourism flights will begin in nine to 18 months (July 2011-April 2012).

11 April 2014 - Skift

Skift Take
Branson's been wrong before and it's not long before he becomes the billionaire that cried wolf. Taxpayers that funded Spaceport America would rather have a realistic launch date that's far out than numerous false starts.

Richard Branson, billionaire owner of Virgin Galactic, says he is "90 percent convinced" spaceships will fly from New Mexico's taxpayer-funded Spaceport America this year — and he will be on one of them.

"I'm pretty convinced that, by this summer, our spacecraft will go into space and then I think by September myself and my family will have been into space," Branson told Jorge Ramos of the Fusion TV network earlier this week. "I'm 90 percent convinced that will happen."

New Mexicans may believe it when they see it.

23 September 2014 - Bloomberg

Richard Branson said almost 800 would-be space tourists signed up for $250,000 flights with his Virgin Galactic venture have been understanding about glitches that caused commercial services to be delayed until 2015.

Pushback from clients who include physicist Stephen Hawking, singer Sarah Brightman and X-Men director Bryan Singer has amounted to "almost none whatsoever," the U.K. billionaire told Bloomberg Television. "Everyone's been very patient. They realize that it's rocket science. They want to make sure that we don't hurry them up there, and they want to come back."

26 September 2014 - Financial Times

The start date for flights on SpaceShipTwo have been pushed back several times. Mr Branson originally said in 2004 that passengers would be able to fly to space by 2007. Since then, he has declared more than once that the service was about to commence, only for the date to keep slipping. In a scathing biography about the Virgin founder published this year, author Tom Bower cast doubt on whether the enterprise would ever launch.

29 September 2014 - TTG

Richard Branson has insisted his Virgin Galactic enterprise will be ready for its first flight next spring.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the founder of Virgin Atlantic rejected claims by critics that the latest delay in lift-off for his spaceship was further evidence that the business would never make it off the ground.

1 April 2015 – Vanity Fair

Despite the in-flight breakup last October, there is reason to believe that Branson will have his chance, and that others will follow along. Only about 20 passengers have canceled their tickets. The development work in Mojave continues unabated. After the second Virgin spaceship (now being built by Virgin Galactic itself) is completed, flight-testing will resume. Commercial flights could begin toward the end of 2016.

25 July 2018 - CNet

Before the end of the year I hope to be sitting in a Virgin Galactic spaceship, going to space," Branson told David Rubenstein in an interview for Bloomberg.

30 November 2018 - CNN

Branson is known to set deadlines that aren't met. Virgin Galactic has been developing SpaceShipTwo since 2004, and Branson initially said commercial rides would begin in 2007. Eleven years later, the firm is still working on getting its 600 customers into space.

9 February 2019 - NBC News

The British billionaire said Thursday that he plans to take his first trip to space within the next six months — the flight will coincide with the anniversary of the first landing of astronauts on the moon, one of spaceflight's greatest achievements.

3 August 2020 - CNBC

Virgin Galactic provided a significant update to its development timeline, saying its next test spaceflight will occur "this fall," with just two test pilots on board. Then the company will fly a second time, with four "mission specialists" inside the spacecraft's cabin. If both test flights succeed, Virgin Galactic expects to fly Branson in early 2021, which would mark the beginning of its commercial service.
If the old only could, if the young only knew.

Taman Tun

The latest predictions from Virgin Galactic are that there will be a full test with the rocket being fired on or after 22 October and that Branson will take a flight in the first quarter of 2021. 
A year ago Virgin Galactic obtained a public listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)by means of a maneuver called a special purpose acquisition vehicle (SPAC).  This was achieved by merging Virgin Galactic with the non-trading shell company:- Social Capital Hedosophia.  One advantage of a SPAC is that it avoids having to provide a load of awkward details to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.  A SPAC (also known as a blank cheque company) is able to raise money from investors without any particular purpose in mind. 

Virgin Galactic began life on the NYSE in October 2019 with the ID Code SPCE.   In the year since, SPCE has had quite an interesting time.

In May, Branson sold 25 million shares to raise USD $300 million, apparently to prop up the ailing Virgin Atlantic airline. 

On Aug. 10, Virgin Galactic announced that it had successfully closed its public stock offering. The company sold 23.6 million shares of SPCE stock for $19.50 a pop. As a result, the company obtained nearly $460 million in proceeds.

Currently Virgin Galactic is making operating losses of around $60 million per quarter and still does not have FAA approval for passenger flight.  It would not be surprising if the FAA tread cautiously after the recent 737 MAX debacle. 

The shares have fluctuated between $7 and $37 and currently are around $19.  SPCE has an enthusiastic following in the US where people are probably not aware that Branson has been promising to go into space every year since 2007.  The stock price can be followed on
https://stocktwits.com/symbol/SPCE.  The BTL comments on the site are worth reading with loyal supporters expecting to make a real killing any day soon.   Good luck to them if they do, but I suspect that Branson will be the only one to make any money.
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


Thanks for that T.T. Space tourism i wonder if one day it will happen - not to long ago it was only science fiction but coming closer to reality now. will we see it in our time, if so it will only be for the rich & famous. Virgin Galactic and SpaceX expect to fly private paying passengers to space next year. what next year who knows, Virgin Galactic has sold tickets to about 600 passengers at a price between $200,000 and $250,000 each, and the great unwashed will just have to dream.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

I think Blue Origin backed by Jeff Bezos will get there first.  At least they have a rocket motor powerful enough for the job.  There is a good You Tube clip of a take off and landing but it seems it is not downloadable.
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


Quote from: Taman Tun on October 01, 2020, 04:27:42 PM
I think Blue Origin backed by Jeff Bezos will get there first.  At least they have a rocket motor powerful enough for the job.  There is a good You Tube clip of a take off and landing but it seems it is not downloadable.
thanks T.T. you could be right, enjoyed the clip  AMAZING Jeff Bezos
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


How Richard Branson Is Trying To Save His Virgin Empire
Sir Richard Branson has cut a figure as a brash and rebellious impresario who took on big businesses with his larger-than-life personality, charm, and sheer guts. The Virgin Atlantic airline Branson started and grew from an industry underdog to a major international carrier is now at risk of collapsing. Branson's Virgin Group has several other businesses in industries that have all been hit hard by the coronavirus. His sparkling empire is taking hits on all sides from a global pandemic.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

Yesterday's much hyped test flight ended in failure but fortunately everyone safely back on the ground:- https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/12/virgin-galactic-aborts-spaceflight-attempt-in-new-mexico.html . It will be interesting to see what this does to the SPCE share price on Monday.  A lot of people have been piling into these shares in the hope of making a killing.  Some burnt fingers on Monday, I think.
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


Thanks for the uodate T.T. - so how much did there hour of fun cost the rich and famous trying to reach the edge of space for the third time
the money spent on trying to get into space, could be put to good use at the moment on earth. Virgin Galactic has about 600 reservations, most were sold at price of $200,000 to $250,000 a ticket several years ago.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

Virgin Galactic shares down 17% after failed test.  They will fall even further if there is a long delay to the next test.  The company is a very long way from its stated aim of 400 passenger flights per year.
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


Hi T.T. yes a bad year for tourism, let alone space tourism. maybe 2020 is not the year for it ,,,
Their best line they can swiftly gather together is

Although this weekend's powered test flight was not a success, the silver lining is that [Virgin Galactic] was able to prove that its built in fail-safe scenarios worked properly enabling [SpaceShipTwo] to glide safely back to Earth without jeopardizing the safety of anyone on board. The successful triggering of fail-safe scenario should help quell some investor concerns over the risk of a catastrophic event as [Virgin Galactic] begins commercial operations. cnbc.com

Hotel in space for the ultra rich - A room with a view $35,000 per night - How much if we dont look  :o

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

This is an article by Rich Smith of The Motley Fool.  It takes a close look into Galactic.  It has some interesting things to say about costs and expected ticket prices.

The Most Important Number Virgin Galactic Investors Need to Know
How profitable can an aircraft be if it needs a new engine after every flight?

Rich Smith

Dec 26, 2020 at 7:07AM

All of a sudden, Wall Street loves space investing -- as evidenced by the "second annual space summit" that Morgan Stanley just held up in NYC earlier this month. Because of the coronavirus, MS held the conference virtually this year, but even so, it somehow "ran out of room," reports CNBC, because three times as many companies, analysts, and investors tried to attend this year.
Who showed up? Just a few names should give you an idea of the event's popularity: Planet Labs and Rocket Lab, Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin and Luxembourg's SES, Virgin Orbit, and also its publicly traded sister company, Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE).
And that's the one we're going to be talking about today.
Participants covered a range of topics at the space conference, in particular discussing the role of special-purpose acquisition companies in bringing space stocks public via reverse-merger IPOs. (They also talked about SpaceX, which has not IPO'ed and, curiously, didn't even bother to attend the conference).
If you ask me, though, the big reveal from this month's summit was Virgin Galactic's laying out its plans to become the biggest pure-play space company in the world that has IPO'ed.
Virgin Galactic's big reveal
Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier explained that as its test flight program evolves into a commercial space tourism business sometime next year, the company is ramping up its growth plans. From just a single operational VSS Unity spaceplane today, flying out of Spaceport America in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic plans to build entire fleets of spaceplanes and to fly them out of multiple spaceports around the world.
Eventually, Colglazier hopes to be launching spaceplanes 400 times per year per spaceport and bringing in $1 billion annually from each spaceport it flies from.
Space math
Now, the math is a little fuzzy here: 400 flights generating $1 billion in total revenue will require an average ticket price of $416,667 -- 67% higher than the advertised price of $250,000 for Virgin's first 600 passengers.
It's going to be hard to grow the size of Virgin's addressable market (which board chairman Chamath Palihapitiya says he wants to do) if Virgin's first move is to raise its prices. And yet, according to Virgin "chief space officer" George Whitesides, this is in fact the plan -- to raise prices "substantially," reports CNBC.
For that matter, whether or not Virgin Galactic wants to raise prices, it might need to in order to support its expansion plans. You see, factoring in refurbishment time between flights, Virgin anticipates that each of its spaceplanes can fly about 50 times per year. To achieve 400 total flights will therefore require building eight spaceplanes per spaceport -- at a cost of $30 million to $35 million per spaceplane.
(Colglazier, by the way, says it will be at least a few years before it has even five, much less eight, spaceplanes built -- so investors should be prepared to wait awhile for that $1 billion in revenue to materialize).
Additionally, Colglazier has acknowledged that Virgin will need to build "several mother ships" to carry its spaceplanes to altitude. It's not known how much these cost, but the development cost of the first WhiteKnightTwo mother ship, for example, has been estimated at $400 million.
The most important number
And these are just the capital costs Virgin Galactic must absorb. There are also operating costs to consider -- in particular, the cost of replacing the spaceplane engine after each flight.
Yes, you read that right. Every time VSS Unity, or its sister ships, flies, Virgin Galactic needs to replace the spaceplane's hybrid solid-fuel engine entirely. It's therefore perhaps best to think of these things not as ordinary "engines" that can be refueled, such as the ones on a SpaceX Falcon, but as fuel cartridges that, once used, are spent and discarded and must be replaced.
This isn't necessarily a deal breaker for investors considering the stock. Aside from SpaceX, which uses reusable rocket ships, most space companies operate use once-and-discard rockets to reach orbit. But how much will this approach cost Virgin Galactic?
According to the company, at current low rates of production, it costs between $250,000 and $275,000 to build a new spaceplane engine. Management tells me this cost will "come down significantly over time as we scale and enhance efficiencies." But until it does, investors have to assume that engine costs alone will eat up the revenue generated by roughly 1 out of every 6 tickets sold. (Unless, that is, Virgin Galactic raises its ticket prices).
If you're planning to invest in Virgin Galactic stock, therefore, and hope to see it earn a profit one day, I think this is probably the most important number to watch: the cost of the engine.
Should you invest $1,000 in Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. right now?
Before you consider Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc., you'll want to hear this.
Investing legend and Motley Fool Co-founder Tom Gardner just revealed what he believes are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. wasn't one of them.
If the old only could, if the young only knew.

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