Virgin Galactic has about 700 customers waiting for next space trip

Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, carrying billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and his crew, descends after reaching the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

San Francisco: Virgin Galactic, which sold 100 tickets to space at a higher price after Richard Branson's space trip in July, now has nearly 700 customers waiting to fly.

The number is, however, about 300 less than the 1,000 tickets the company was hoping to sell ahead of starting commercial flights of its vehicles in 2022.

"Demand for space travel is strong, and we've been selling seats ahead of the pace we had planned," said Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, in a statement.

After Branson's successful trip to the edge of space and back on the company's primary spaceplane, called VSS Unity, in July, the company in August listed tickets at $450,000, significantly higher than the $250,000 price tag during Virgin Galactic's initial ticketing round years ago.

Tickets were offered to a group of individuals who had put down a refundable $1,000 deposit, showing their interest in flying with Virgin Galactic.

Branson flew with two test pilots and three other passengers, reaching a height of more than 53 miles before returning back to Earth.

However, later it was reported that Branson's flight had actually deviated from its approved flight path when it returned to Earth, following which the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded the company, the Verge reported.

Before the FAA cleared the company to fly again in mid-September, Virgin Galactic decided to reopen ticket sales, arguing that there had been a "surge in consumer interest following" Branson's flight.

For the ticket priced at $450,000, customers had to put down a $150,000 deposit, $25,000 of which was non-refundable, according to Colglazier.

But the company stated that the "current pricing of $450,000 per seat has been well received". It is expected to start private astronaut commercial service by Q4 2022.

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