Virgin Galactic performed six suborbital spaceflights so far this year, increasing the hype surrounding the space travel market. One would think 2023 would be a turnaround year for Virgin Galactic, but announcements that it is laying off 18% of its current workforce and reducing flights of its VSS Unity to “concentrate on higher revenue opportunities”.
Travelling to space and seeing the Earth from above is touted as a profoundly unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Despite the excitement that has come with space travel, the industry has also faced challenges in recent years, including launch failures, delays and criticism from people that argue there is no value in space tourism except for billionaires.
Last year, NASA awarded Blue Origin, Nanoracks, and Northrop Grumman $416 million in contracts toward the study of designs of commercially-operated space stations. With the ISS currently planned for retirement by 2031, and following the growing commercialization of LEO, its government owners are looking at potential replacements. Space tourism is publicized as the next commercial.