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Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic saw a 400% jump in revenue, thanks to its space flights and ‘membership fees’ for astronauts-to-be

Space travel company Virgin Galactic's revenues have skyrocketed along with its first commercial space flights

The company founded by billionaire British mogul Richard Branson saw sales swell in the second quarter following the successes of its final test flight and first full-fledged commercial space mission.

For the April to June period, Virgin Galactic brought in revenue of $1.9 million, up 432% from $357,000 during the same period last year.

The company attributed the surge in revenue to the new commercial spaceflights and to “future astronaut membership fees.” Virgin Galactic didn’t clarify what those fees entail and how they would be applied to its upcoming missions.

“During the quarter, we successfully completed two spaceflights in two months, including the launch of commercial service in late June with a scientific research mission,” Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said in a statement Tuesday. “Our financial position remains strong, and we remain focused on scaling the business.”

Still losing money 

Despite increasing revenues, the space tourism company continued to post astronomical losses. Its net loss stood at $134 million for the quarter, up from $111 million for the same period in 2022, due to “an increase in research and development expenses related to the development of the future fleet.”

The success of Virgin Galactic’s June space flight was a milestone for the company to bring its service to market, allowing more people to fly to space. The mission included a group of Italian researchers, who wore special suits to collect data on how their bodies react while in space.

Virgin Galactic has another private mission launching next week, and expects to achieve the rough benchmark of $1 million in each of the remaining two quarters of 2023.

Since it was founded in 2004, Virgin Galactic has worked toward making space tourism a reality where people can buy tickets to be on one of its weekly or monthly spacecrafts. In 2021, the Orange County, Calif.–based company received federal approval to fly people to space.

As of June, Virgin Galactic had sold about 800 tickets for its commercial flights—600 of them before 2014, for between $200,000 to $250,000 each, and 200 of them since then for $450,000 each, according to Al Jazeera. A number of A-list celebrities were among the initial group that bought tickets to eventual space missions, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Lady Gaga.

Virgin Galactic did not immediately return Fortune’s request for comment.

The space tourism boom 

Many companies have in recent times been vying for the lucrative space tourism market, including Tesla chief Elon Musk’s SpaceX Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin even had neck-to-neck test flights in 2021 with their founders aboard—Branson wound up beating Bezos on a brief space trip.

Despite the fascination of space tourism, there has also been an element of fear associated with adventure tours following the debacle with OceanGate, which saw its Titanic-bound submersible explode in June following safety lapses.

The parallels between commercial space travel and deep-sea exploration aren’t for nothing—they often boast wealthy customers who can afford the high ticket price and require meeting high safety standards. One of OceanGate’s passengers who lost his life on the submersible, Hamish Harding, was also a passenger on one of Blue Origin’s missions last year.

Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have had a few of their own catastrophes, but both companies have emphasized the importance of safety protocols and have had many successful missions with no casualties. The Federal Aviation Administration, a U.S. government body, is also working on devising a safety framework for commercial space flights.


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