NASA partnership for supersonic tech after Virgin Galactic lost $60 million in first quarter, Space tourism venture Virgin Galactic lost $60 million in the first quarter of 2020, down from the net loss of $73 million incurred at the end of last year, according to today’s company earnings release.
The company claims it earned revenue this first quarter of only $238,000 by “providing engineering services.” Along with these earnings figures, Virgin Galactic reveals that in the future 400 people will deposit refundable deposits to travel on the tourist spaceplane of the company.
The full cost of flying on the spacecraft is $250,000, but Virgin Galactic has allowed aspiring astronauts to put down only $1,000 to reserve a seat on a future flight through a new initiative. The company claims those deposits represent “more than $100 million in possible future sales on complete ticket purchase.” Virgin Galactic also reports today that NASA is getting some support in designing future high Mach aircraft — or supersonic jets — that could theoretically be used for high-speed air travel. The corporation today signed a new NASA Space Act Agreement which will exploit the expertise of the space agency in the area of supersonic air travel.
Over the past two decades, the primary aim of Virgin Galactic has been to bring paying customers to the edge of space and back to get a fast taste of weightlessness. The primary vehicle of the business is the VSS Unity, a spaceplane which deploys in midair from under the wing of a giant carrier aircraft. Pilots on board the spaceplane ignite the onboard engine of the spacecraft to rise to an altitude of 50 miles above Earth, which is considered by many to be the boundary to space. Passengers will endure a few minutes of floating at that height before the plane glides back down to Earth and lands on a runway.
Although space tourism is the ultimate goal of Virgin Galactic, the company has expressed interest in expanding its capacities.
Virgin Galactic creator Richard Branson talked about the potential creation of point-to-point travel involving rocket-driven vehicles carrying passengers from one point on Earth to another. Also other firms, notably SpaceX, have proposed point-to-point travel but such technology is far from reality. And the viability of these modes of travel is troubling.
However, the development of supersonic aircraft may be a major step towards making point-to-point travel possible. And NASA has a lot of experience with high Mach vehicles of this kind, with decades of history engineering aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound. NASA has also been working on a new supersonic “silent” jet called the X-59 QueSST in recent years.