This summer brought new developments in the realm of commercial space travel, and now the dream is drawing closer to reality, thanks to a recently revealed partnership between Boeing and Virgin Galactic. 

View of earth from a Virgin Galactic spaceship
Boeing will invest US $20 million in Virgin Galactic. Image © Virgin Galactic

The aerospace giant will invest US $20 million in Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, the latter announced on October 7, to put toward the development of civilian space travel. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket (also known as VSS Unity) reached the edge of space in December 2018, then blew past it two months later. Now the company is targeting summer 2020 for taking tourists along for the ride, and per reporting from Business Insider, it’s only looking to grow from there. 

VSS Unity flying in space
In December, the VSS Unity (aka SpaceShipTwo) reached an altitude of 51.4 miles – past the edge of space, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. (Others consider the boundary to be the Karman line, at 62 miles high.) Image © Virgin Galactic

“The company plans to start with 16 flights a year in 2020, then to increase this to 270 flights a year by 2023, when it will have its entire fleet of five vessels — which works out to around one flight every 32 hours,” write Ruqayyah Moynihan and Thomas Giraudet for Business Insider France. “Within four years, it will eventually have the capacity to transport 1565 people on a year-round basis.”

Virgin astronaut in space, wearing sunglasses and smiling while talking into a headset
According to documentation unearthed by Business Insider, Virgin Galactic is aiming to send a tourist flight into space every 32 hours by 2023. Image © Virgin Galactic

As one of three billionaire-backed participants in the modern-day space race, alongside Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX, Virgin Galactic has raised $1 billion-plus to date, much of which has reportedly been funded by Branson himself. The Boeing partnership was revealed with the lofty goal of making space travel more accessible – a good thing, too, as tickets are currently priced at $250,000 per head and only expected to rise.  

“This is the beginning of an important collaboration for the future of air and space travel, which are the natural next steps for our human spaceflight programme,” Branson said in a press release. “Virgin Galactic and Boeing share a vision of opening access to the world and space, to more people in safe and environmentally responsible ways.”

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