Virgin Galactic—British billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceflight company—said Friday that the Federal Aviation Administration has given it the green light to ferry private citizens to space. The spaceline, which is the first to gain such approval, successfully sent its Unity ship on its third test flight in late May from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. “The flight achieved a speed of Mach 3 and reached space at an altitude of 55.5 miles,” the company said. “Today’s approval by the FAA of our full commercial launch license, in conjunction with the success of our May 22 test flight, give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”
The billionaire space wars are now on, as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is set to blast off July 20—the Apollo 11 anniversary—on the first human flight of one of his own Blue Origin spacecrafts. According to The Washington Post, the FAA will give Blue Origin the go-ahead for commercial flights within months. Over 12 private astronauts are scheduled on commercial spaceflights in the next year, and Virgin Galactic has already sold 600 tickets for its flights, expected to begin in 2022. The out-of-this-world experience doesn’t come cheap. Some have shelled out $250,000 for seats, while experts say Virgin Galactic tickets could cost as much as $500,000 when they go on sale later this year.