For years now, using miles for space flight has been a dream limited largely to US Airways Dividend Miles members. Dividend Miles has offered, for the tidy sum of 10 million miles, future seats on a suborbital craft that has yet to be built.
Very soon, there may be another option.
British entrepreneur Richard Branson has announced that his Virgin company plans to launch commercial space flights over the next few years.
Virgin has signed an agreement with aviation designer Burt Rutan to build an aircraft based on Rutan’s SpaceShipOne vessel, Branson said.
SpaceShipOne cracked the barrier to manned commercial space flight in June by flying 98,547 meters, or about 99 kilometers (328,491 feet, or about 62 miles) above Earth.
Mohave Aerospace Ventures plans to begin construction of the first vessel, VSS Enterprise, next year.
“Virgin has been in talks with Paul Allen and Bert throughout this year and in the early hours of Saturday signed a historical deal to license SpaceShipOne’s technology to build the world’s first private spaceship to go into commercial operating service,” Branson told a news conference.
The new service will be called Virgin Galactic and expects to fly 3,000 new astronauts within five years. Fares will start at $208,000 USD for a suborbital flight, including three days’ training.
Assuming that Virgin has no plans to stifle its proven creativity, we wouldn’t be surprised to see an award offer at any time. Using the industry standard 2-cent-per-mile calculation, one might expect the award to run about 10.5 million miles.
Better start saving.