Billionaire Richard Branson and the Virgin Galactic's new chairman Chamath Palihapitiya disclosed on Tuesday the new timeline to to fly tourists to the edge of space.
"We're going to be starting commercial operations within a year from now," Palihapitiya said. The company plans for its space tourists to experience about four minutes of weightlessness at the edge of space, between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space. What is a fact now: 600 future astronauts have paid $80 million in deposits on the $250,000 flights to space, adding that the company expects to be profitable by August 2021.
Earlier on Tuesday, Virgin Galactic executives announced a merger, valued at $1.5 billion, with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company. Virgin Galactic has been seeking outside investment for some time. They had to pull away from an investment by Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. "By taking Virgin Galactic public, at this advanced point in its development, we can open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts," Branson declared. Virgin Galactic expects to be profitable two years after it begins publicly-trading. Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft Unity holds up to six passengers along with the two pilots.