X

This is not a paywall.

Register for free to continue reading.

We made a promise to you that we’ll never erect a paywall and we intend to keep that promise. We also want to continually improve your reading experience and you can help us do that by registering with us. It’s quick, easy and will cost you nothing.



Nearly there! Create a password to finish up registering with us:


Please enter your password or get a login link if you’ve forgotten


Open Sesame! Thanks for registering.

First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

We'd like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick

More specifically, we'd like those who can afford to pay to start paying. What it comes down to is whether or not you value Daily Maverick. Think of us in terms of your daily cappuccino from your favourite coffee shop. It costs around R35. That’s R1,050 per month on frothy milk. Don’t get us wrong, we’re almost exclusively fuelled by coffee. BUT maybe R200 of that R1,050 could go to the journalism that’s fighting for the country?

We don’t dictate how much we’d like our readers to contribute. After all, how much you value our work is subjective (and frankly, every amount helps). At R200, you get it back in Uber Eats and ride vouchers every month, but that’s just a suggestion. A little less than a week’s worth of cappuccinos.

We can't survive on hope and our own determination. Our country is going to be considerably worse off if we don’t have a strong, sustainable news media. If you’re rejigging your budgets, and it comes to choosing between frothy milk and Daily Maverick, we hope you might reconsider that cappuccino.

We need your help. And we’re not ashamed to ask for it.

Our mission is to Defend Truth. Join Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Virgin Galactic stalls on launch dates, but flights to...

Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Virgin Galactic stalls on launch dates, but flights to space still selling

SpaceShipTwo, Richard Branson's relatively cheap answer to otherwise exorbitant commercial space travel ($200,000 a ticket vs. $21 million), is going to take off later than expected. The customers don't seem to care, though.

In December 2009, as readers of The Daily Maverick may recall, Richard Branson took a formidable swipe at Eric C. Anderson’s Space Adventures, until then the only company in the world to offer commercial space travel – and the same firm that took Mark Shuttleworth into orbit in 2002. Branson’s SpaceShipTwo, we reported, was Virgin Galactic’s answer to the $21-million-a-ticket round-trip offered by Anderson. On its unveiling in the Mojave desert, Branson told the media he hoped to be offering seats for $200,000 a ticket.

We also reported at the time that the six-passenger (two-pilot) craft was expected to begin test flights in 2010, with the first commercial flights planned for 2011 or 2012. In a conference in Dubai on Wednesday March 3, Virgin Galactic’s president Will Whitehorn announced that the date for test flights would be pushed out to 2011, while the inaugural commercial flights might happen as late as 2013.

“I will not say whether it [the start of commercial flights] will be 2011, 2012 or 2013,” said Whitehorn. “It’s going to be when we’re ready.”

Funding for the project, according to Whitehorn, wasn’t the issue. In July 2009, Virgin Galactic sold a 32 percent stake in the business to Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments – at a price of $280 million. While the company plans to initiate its spaceflights out of California, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Aabar will also be constructing “spaceport” facilities in Abu Dhabi to the tune of $100 million in development costs.

BusinessWeek, among other media brands, provided an update on ticket sales. “Whitehorn said the company has received nearly 330 bookings from customers who have put down deposits of up to $200,000 each to secure a seat. The company has so far taken in about $45 million in deposits, he said.

“That enthusiasm has the company expecting to be profitable within two years of starting operations”, Whitehorn said.

By staff writer

Read more: Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek

Gallery

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted