The wait for commercial flights into space continues after Virgin Galactic on Tuesday announced its plans to begin preregistration for a second wave of ticket sales.
Spaceport America CEO Dan Hicks said in November that flights are projected to launch this summer. With that countdown quickly approaching, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. said in a news release it intends to reopen ticket sales after freezing them in 2018.
Starting Wednesday, those interested in making the sojourn to space can pay a $1,000 refundable registration fee to queue up for actual ticket sales. The company has not yet announced when they will go on sale, or how much they’ll cost.
Tickets previously sold for $250,000, and roughly 600 people from 60 countries purchased them. The list included the late renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, actors Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt and pop musician Justin Bieber, among other celebrities, according to national media reports.
The company now intends to reopen sales “in light of continuing, strong progress towards commercial service,” Virgin Galactic’s news release said.
Nearly 8,000 people have filed online registrations expressing interest in space travel in the 14 months since Virgin Galactic’s first successful test flight out of Earth’s atmosphere.
“We have been greatly encouraged by the ongoing and increasing demand seen from around the world for personal spaceflight,” Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic’s commercial director, said in a statement. “One Small Step allows us to help qualify and build confidence in our direct sales pipeline, as well as to ensure that those who are most keen to make reservations, are able to do so at the earliest opportunity.”
The company has received criticism in the past over long delays in launching space tourism flights.
Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides said in 2011 the rough goal for the first commercial flight was 12 to 18 months from then.
Commercial tourism flights have still not launched.
Virgin Galactic also suffered a setback in 2014 when its first experimental craft broke apart during a test flight, killing a co-pilot.
Nevertheless, there has been keen interest and investment. New Mexico, for example, has invested $218.5 million into the spaceport facility south of Truth or Consequences, where Virgin has been conducting test flights and has moved key staff.
In four years, the number of spaceport-related jobs has grown from 50 to 250.
The company had asked lawmakers to fund $57 million to help it build a welcome center, an information technology facility, and payload and vehicle processing facility for companies using the spaceport.
The Legislature ended up approving far less during the 2020 session: $10 million from severance tax bonds and $500,000 from the general fund.