Richard Branson’s space tourism company announced last week that it will be moving its headquarters from Mojave California to Spaceport America, New Mexico, also, the company stated they might be sending the first commercial tourists to space by the end of the year. Branson stated: “Virgin Galactic is coming home to New Mexico where together we will open space to change the world for good.” Meanwhile, George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company said:
“The first photograph of Earth from space was taken over New Mexico in October of 1946. How inspiring and appropriate that the state will soon host the first regular commercial spaceflight service, which will enable thousands of people to see Earth from space with their own eyes.”
Branson is not only moving its Virgin Galactic company, he is also relocating more than 100 employees together with their families, as well as the VMS Eve aircraft and VSS Unity spaceship over the summer. However, the manufacturing of the space vehicles will continue to be fulfilled by The Spaceship Company in Mojave, California. Plus, Virgin Galactic must also finalize the cabin design for its rocket ships before being able to begin final test flights, however, CEO George Whitesides declined to set a specific deadline for their first commercial flight.
Although, initially, Branson said he would like to make the first suborbital flight this year in July, in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, it seems a bit unlikely, especially now with the relocation involved and with more flight tests needed. CEO Whitesides stated he anticipates the first commercial flight within a year.
Moreover, it seems that hundreds of potential customers have committed as much as $250,000 up front for rides in Virgin’s six-passenger rocket, which is about the size of an executive jet. Among the first people on board the flights will be celebrities like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio, who have already paid for their tickets, Branson himself wanting to be on the first flight.