Is Virgin Galactic Prepared to Take on SpaceX in the Private Space Race?

Virgin CEO Richard Branson has repeatedly expressed an interest in entering the private company space race, developing Virgin Galactic as his answer to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. After witnessing the successful Falcon Heavy rocket launch earlier this month, Branson admitted that he was jealous of Musk’s success, leading many to wonder if the billionaire is considering stepping up his space race efforts.

As Musk prepares to launch a series of satellites into space, with the goal of providing a global WiFi network accessible from anywhere on Earth, Branson has expressed a keen desire to upstage his nearest competitor. While he has been developing plans for years to transport the first tourists to space, this recent launch by SpaceX may have pushed up Branson’s timeline.

Branson spoke with reporters shortly after Falcon Heavy’s successful take off. He let the reporter know that he and his team were currently in the process of finding a way to “upstage that one.” Virgin Galactic was created in 2004 and has always had the primary objective of putting tourists in space. Unfortunately, the company has been plagued with setbacks, including a 2014 crash that proved to be fatal.

In October of 2017, Branson estimated that his company could be in space within three to six months. While they have not yet met that goal, January did see several positive test flights. This was encouraging enough for the company to begin considering a space launch in late 2018. As of mid-February, 2018, approximately 700 people have reserved a spot into space on a Virgin Galactic flight. Each ticket costs $200,000 per person.

Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are not the only private companies in the space race, although they are the two most notable and most successful. Amazon CO Jeff Bezos has also created a private space company that experts expect to hear more from soon. It is called Blue Origin.