Richard Branson’s space tourism venture is set to launch its second commercial trip to suborbital heights in less than two weeks but the company is not too optimistic about the revenue generated by its private orbital tours.
During a recent earnings call, the company announced a revenue of $US2 million in the second quarter of 2023 following the success of its first commercial flight but anticipated $1 million in revenue for each of the next two quarters, SpaceNews reported.
Virgin Galactic’s first space tourism flight took off on June 29, sending a three-person crew from the Italian Air Force and National Research Council of Italy to suborbital heights on board the VSS Unity suborbital spaceplane. Its second private mission, Galactic 02, is scheduled to launch on August 10 from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Galactic 02 will carry the company’s first crew of private customers. After which, the company wants to launch a private crew to suborbital altitude once a month. Those trips, however, won’t be bringing in that much money, according to the company.
The reason for the low revenues is partly due to the company selling about three-fourths of the 800 tickets sold so far at a price tag of between $US200,000 and $US250,000, according to Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, SpaceNews reported based on the earnings call. Virgin Galactic later raised its ticket prices to $US450,000 each.
The initial flights will also carry three paying customers, accompanied by an astronaut trainer who will occupy the fourth seat on board VSS Unity. The company will add a fourth customer for its space tourism trips in 2024. “When we look at the capacity of Unity and the ticket prices that we’re flying these days, you would expect to see for the near term about $US600,000 per flight,” Colglazier said during the call.
Missions that carry government customers like Galactic 01, on the other hand, actually rack in more cash, bringing in $US600,000 per seat. Those only account for 100 seats out of the 1,000 seats that have been booked so far, according to Colglazier.
Despite the low revenue predictions, Virgin Galactic is still doing better compared to the same time last year. Its second quarter earnings in 2022 were at $US357,000, but its commercial spaceflight kickoff and membership fees have helped raise its quarterly earnings this year.
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