Virgin Galactic, XCOR Suborbital Ticket Sales Surpass 850

SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic and XCOR have combined to sell 855 tickets for suborbital space rides, according to media reports today.

In an appearance before the Aero Club of Washington, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said his company has sold 625 reservations worth $125 million in deposits. Meanwhile, Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) has reservations for about 230 flights of XCOR’s Lynx suborbital space plane.

Challenges remain for both companies.

Interestingly, the customer base has shifted to become 60% foreign, according to Whitesides. Previously half were Americans. But that shift underscores one the company’s goals, as well as a key reason for Whitesides to speak to a Washington audience: Virgin and the rest of the nascent commercial space industry would like human-rated spacecraft to be kept off the strict U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) as part of the Obama administration’s reform of export controls.

In a move long sought by industry, the administration in May, with Congress’s recent approval, acted to shift commercial satellites from the State Department’s U.S. Munitions List (USML) to the Commerce Department’s less restrictive Commerce Control List for export licenses. At the same time, officials proposed adding crewed space vehicles to the USML under ITAR control.

Virgin Galactic wants to fly SpaceShipTwo from Abu Dhabi and Kiruna, Sweden in addition to its home base at Spaceport America in New Mexico. SXC will fly the Lynx from the Caribbean island of Curacao.