Scaled Composites, designer and operator of Space Ship One, have announced a deal with Virgin today. Worth ~$20 million, the tie up will see Virgin license Space Ship One technology, and offer flights under the Virgin Galactic brand. Virgin will be investing ~$100 million in setting up the venture, and will be investing profits into making the next generation of space craft.
The flight will cost significantly less that existing space tourist flights (Approx $190,000, compared to ~$15 million for a trip on the Soyuz module), and will take space explorers to the giddy heights of 100 miles above earth. Virgin Galactic will start taking deposits in 2005, with a view to launch the first craft in 2007. The company plans to take 3,000 astronauts within the first five years of operation.
Virgin founder, Richard Branson commented "We've always had a dream of developing a space tourism business and ... the deals with both their companies, being announced today, are just the start of what we believe will be a new era in the history of mankind, making the affordable exploration of space by human beings real." He also said that "the development will also allow every country in the world to have their own astronauts rather than the privileged few".
Earlier this year, Space Ship One became the first commercial space ship to successfully launch, enter space, and return to earth. It will be competing aside many other entrants in the X-Prize, a competition designed to spark interest in Space flight, and worth $10 Million to the winner.
View: Virgin Galactic