Virgin Galactic gets FAA go-ahead for space tourism flights

©Virgin Galactic

Shares in Virgin Galactic jumped nearly 40% on news that Sir Richard Branson’s spaceship company has been given approval for passengers to fly into space on a commercial basis, while putting pressure on ‘space race’ rivals Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos with Space X and Blue Origin, respectively. Shares in Virgin Galactic have all but doubled in value this year.

The FAA’s approval comes just a month after Virgin Galactic’s first manned space flight from its base in New Mexico in May with its SpaceShipTwo aircraft which has a capacity for six passengers. The company has more over 600 reservations for the 90-minute flight that will include several minutes of weightlessness, and which cost US$250,000 a piece.

“Today’s approval by the FAA … gives us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer,” said Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Officer Michael Colglazier in a statement.

Jeff Bezos announced earlier this month that he intends to be one of those onboard Blue Origin when it makes its first manned space flight, scheduled for July 20, 52 years to the day when Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the Moon; Richard Branson has long since made it clear he will be one of the first to fly into space with Virgin Galactic, though whether this will be before July 20 remains to be seen.

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