May 11, 2019 - Science

Virgin Galactic takes one step closer to realizing space tourism

In this image, Spaceport America is seen at the end of a long desert road. It looks like a large drone.

The west entrance of Spaceport America. Photo: Steve Snowden/Getty Images

Virgin Galactic announced on Friday that it will finally move operations from its Mojave facilities to the New Mexico launch site Spaceport America, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: This launch site is currently the world's only commercial spaceport. Virgin plans to use the spaceport to fulfill one of its ultimate visions: carrying tourists to space for tickets that reportedly cost up to $250,000 a piece. Virgin plans to execute the move this summer now that it has completed 2 successful flights through the upper atmosphere — one of which included the first passenger carried to space aboard a commercial spacecraft.

The backdrop: Spaceport America, which cost New Mexico taxpayers $220 million, stood vacant for years as Virgin troubleshot issues with test flights. Virgin hoped to have paying passengers take space tours by 2007, but 3 technicians were killed that year by an explosion while testing a propellant system. In 2014, the company's SpaceShipTwo broke apart during a test flight, killing the co-pilot.

  • The rest of Virgin's vision: space hotels and a network of spaceports allowing supersonic travel anywhere on earth within a few hours.

Buzz: 700 people have already signed up to grab up to $250,000 tickets to be flown 50 miles from the New Mexico spaceport to the edge of space. Still, Virgin has not yet set a deadline for the first commercial flight, per the AP.

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