Now that Virgin Galactic has flown its first commercial spaceflight, it's ready to take civilians aboard. The company now expects to launch its first private passenger flight, Galactic 02, as soon as August 10th. You can watch a live stream on the company website.
Virgin is carrying three passengers, although only one is a paying customer. Jon Goodwin, an 80-year-old Olympian from the 1972 Munich games, is an early ticket buyer. The other two won seats in a fundraising draw for Space for Humanity — Keisha Schahaff and her daughter Anastatia Mayers are both the first Caribbeans to fly to space as well as the first mother-daughter duo. Virgin's chief instructor Beth Moses will join the trio.
The inaugural commercial flight, Galactic 01, flew in late June. However, all three passengers were Italian government workers (two from the Air Force and one research council member) conducting microgravity studies. While it's not clear what 02's civilian crew will do, they can be tourists this time around.
The firm has been ramping up its operations in recent months after numerous delays from previous years. While Galactic 02 is just Virgin's seventh spaceflight of any kind, it's the third in 2023. The company says it's establishing a "regular cadence" of flights, and you can expect them to become relatively routine if this voyage goes as planned.
The improved frequency is important for the company's finances. Virgin has operated at a loss for years, and lost over $500 million in 2022. The business won't recoup those losses any time soon even at $450,000 per ticket, but paying customers are key to softening the blow and making a case for space tourism.
Blue Origin and SpaceX have already flown civilians into space, and at altitudes higher than the 50-plus miles Virgin flies. However, they haven't established regular launch schedules for tourists. SpaceX's lunar trips won't happen until the company can finish testing Starship, and Blue Origin is waiting to resume flights following a rocket failure in 2022. In that regard, Virgin may be the closest to achieving its tourism goals — so long as maintains the pace it's setting this summer.
Update, July 17, 2023, 8:45 AM ET: Virgin has released the crew roster for the flight. We've updated the story accordingly.
Correction, August 7, 2023, 1:30PM ET: This article originally misspelled Anastatia Mayers' name, which we've corrected. We apologize for the error.