Virgin Galactic will organize private passenger trips for NASA

Katie Ramirez
June 24, 2020

"We are excited to partner with NASA on this private orbital spaceflight program, which will not only allow us to use our spaceflight platform but also offer our space training infrastructure to NASA and other agencies".

Virgin Galactic is further expanding its scope of space-faring services, today signing a new agreement with NASA that will see it organize private trips to the International Space Station.

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.

The partnership with Virgin Galactic directly supports NASA's "broad strategy to facilitate the commercialization of low-Earth orbit by United States entities", the U.S. space agency told the Verge. The company also signed an agreement with NASA last month to develop high-Mach vehicles for civil applications in the US.

The vertically integrated aerospace company on Monday announced its Space Act Agreement, aimed at encouraging "commercial participation in orbital human spaceflight ... while enabling the development of a robust economy in low-Earth orbit".

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Neither NASA nor Virgin appears to be claiming that Virgin Galactic spacecraft themselves will fly to ISS, just train astronauts to do so.

The company notes NASA is seeing greater demand for use of the ISS for scientific and technological research and development, commercial activity, and worldwide collaboration.

At the time, Bridenstine did not specify precisely which "commercial suborbital spacecraft" company he was talking about: There are two, Virgin Galactic, and the Blue Origin space company founded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. "We want to bring the planetary perspective to many thousands of people".

The majority of those tickets were sold for $200,000 to $250,000 per person.

Some elements of the orbital training program would make use of Spaceport America in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic's base for commercial space operations.

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