Virgin Galactic bookings recover to pre-crash levels

Virgin Galactic’s future bookings for space trips are reported to have almost recovered after dropping in the wake of its fatal accident in the Mojave Desert last year.

The number of people signed up for a $250,000 seat aboard SpaceShipTwo, which offers a brief journey in sub-orbital space at an altitude of 62 miles, was estimated to be as many as 750.

But around 30 people had cancelled their tickets within weeks of the accident in October 2014, in which co-pilot Michael Alsbury lost his life during a test flight of the space craft.

Virgin Galactic chief executive, George Whitesides, told the Telegraph: “We have only lost about 3% now and we’re already making up those numbers. Our early customer group has been quite firm.”

Virgin Galactic informed ticket holders it would be unable to give a set date for the first space tourism flight in the wake of the accident. The announcement followed years of delays.

When Sir Richard Branson founded the company in 2004, he claimed that the first launch would take place by 2009.

It’ll be ready when it’s ready,” Whitesides said. “We’re communicating with our customers about progress in terms of milestones as they happen.”

Whitesides, a former NASA chief of staff, became a customer of Virgin Galactic in 2005, five years before he joined the company, buying tickets for himself and his wife.

“I identify with our customer base,” he said. “Many of them view themselves not as customers but as people enabling the thing that will change the world.”

The new SpaceShipTwo will be ready to test by the end of the year, Virgin Galactic said.

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