As the space community celebrated Virgin Galactic’s successful powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo on Monday, the company may be using the test as an opportunity to raise its ticket price. In an interview with Los Angeles TV KABC station after Monday’s flight, Sir Richard Branson appeared to indicate a 25-percent price increase was in the works. “For a short while it will be $250,000,” he said, “and then once we’ve sent a thousand people into space, we’ll start getting the price down.”
Until now, the price for a Virgin Galactic seat has been $200,000. Did the price go up by $50,000, or did Branson—who, after all, is responsible for many more business ventures than just Virgin Galactic—simply misspeak? Branson offered a few more details to SPACE.com, indicating that the price was, in fact, going up to $250,000 in about a week to account for inflation, but plans to bring the price back down to $200,000 or less “eventually.”
Asked for confirmation Tuesday about the price increase, a Virgin Galactic spokesperson promised to look into the issue but has not responded further as of early Wednesday.
If the news is correct, the price increase would widen the gap between it and the other leading suborbital human spaceflight company, XCOR Aerospace. Space Expedition Corporation, which sells seats on flights by XCOR’s Lynx, is offering “Pioneer” flights on the Lynx Mark I, starting in the third quarter of 2014 from Mojave, for $95,000. That price increases, albeit slightly, for later flights on the Lynx Mark II: $100,000, for flights starting in 2015 from either Mojave or the Caribbean island of Curaçao. That’s 60 percent less than Virgin’s reported new price, although the two vehicles offer considerably different experiences: six people in a large cabin with the ability to float around for SpaceShipTwo, versus one person strapped into a cockpit seat for Lynx.