In October, Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group; New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; staff of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA); and roughly 30 of the more than 380 Virgin Galactic future astronauts dedicated the world’s first spaceway at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The nearly two-mile-long runway was officially named the “Governor Bill Richardson Spaceway” at the event, at which Branson said: “It is incredible to be here today with Governor Richardson and be part of the runway dedication at Spaceport America. To see for myself how far the construction has come from when I last visited New Mexico is truly inspiring. I, for one, can’t wait for the grand opening. Today has brought it one step closer to reality for me. The last few weeks have been some of the most exciting in Virgin Galactic’s development. Our spaceship is flying beautifully and will soon be making powered flights, propelled by our new hybrid rocket motor, which is also making excellent progress in its own test program.
“The investment deal with our new partner, Aabar, has successfully closed, securing funding for the remainder of the development program and we are seeing unprecedented numbers of people coming forward to secure their own reservations for this incredible experience,” Branson continued. “To be here in New Mexico to witness this historic moment is the perfect end to a great month.”
Branson announced a new partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Sovereign Wealth Fund, Aabar Investments. The deal has Aabar taking a 32 percent stake in Virgin Galactic’s business for investing $280M with an option on a further $100M from Aabar for the development of a small satellite launch vehicle, pending a feasibility study.
This geek never said going to space would be cheap: $200,000 per ticket multiplied by the 380-plus future astronauts already signed up equals $76,000,000 ($76M). Not bad for an airline that has not yet logged even a single commercial flight. I think Virgin Galactic will be just fine.