Virgin Galactic s VSS Unity space plane arrives at New Mexico spaceport, Space

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity space plane arrives at New Mexico spaceport

Unity is now in the final phase of its test campaign.

Virgin Galactic is one big step closer to flying customers to suborbital space.

The company’s newest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity, arrived yesterday (Feb. 13) at Spaceport America in New Mexico, the hub of Virgin Galactic’s commercial operations.

Unity made the trip from Mojave, California — the home base of Virgin’s manufacturing subsidiary, The Spaceship Company — beneath the wings of VMS Eve, the plane that will carry Unity aloft during operational missions. The journey therefore kicked off the final stages of Unity’s test campaign.

“This captive-carry flight provided an opportunity for engineers to evaluate VSS Unity for over three hours at high altitude and cold temperatures, a longer period of time than is experienced during missions to space,” Virgin Galactic representatives wrote in a statement yesterday. “These environmental evaluations of system performance are difficult to replicate at ground level, making captive-carry missions a vital component of VSS Unity’s flight-test plan.”

SpaceShipTwo is a six-passenger space plane designed to carry people and scientific payloads on brief trips to suborbital space. The vehicle gets airborne with the help of a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo (VMS Eve).

At an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), WhiteKnightTwo drops SpaceShipTwo, and the space plane fires up its onboard rocket motor to make its own way to suborbital space. Passengers onboard SpaceShipTwo will get to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see Earth’s curvature against the blackness of space before coming back down for a runway landing.

A ticket to ride SpaceShipTwo currently sells for $250,000, and more than 600 people have put down a deposit to book a seat, Virgin Galactic representatives have said.

Unity has already made it to the final frontier twice, acing piloted test flights to suborbital space in December 2018 and February 2019. Both of those missions took off from Mojave, as did the space plane’s many other test flights.

But the test campaign has now moved to New Mexico. There will be more captive-carry flights from Spaceport America, as well as unpowered “glide flights” and rocket-powered test missions, Virgin Galactic representatives wrote in yesterday’s statement. This work will continue to prove out Unity’s performance and also allow the vehicle’s pilots to familiarize themselves fully with Spaceport America and its surroundings.

When these test flights are done, Unity will be ready to begin flying paying customers.

“When Virgin Galactic started moving to New Mexico [from Mojave] last year, everyone felt the sheer magnitude of the task ahead, but we were encouraged and excited by the team’s confidence and strong vision for the future,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in yesterday’s statement.

“Today we realized the next step in that dream by bringing our beautiful spaceship to New Mexico,” he added. “We still have significant work ahead, but we are grateful to all our teammates who have made this day a reality.”

Virgin Galactic’s vision of the future involves more than just VSS Unity and VMS Eve. The company’s hangar at Spaceport America can accommodate five SpaceShipTwo vehicles and two WhiteKnightTwo craft simultaneously, allowing for frequent flights from the facility. And Virgin Galactic intends to fill that hangar eventually; two additional SpaceShipTwo vehicles are currently under construction in Mojave, for example, and both are pretty far along.

Virgin Galactic: Unity rocket ship moves to operational base – BBC News

Virgin Galactic: Unity rocket ship moves to operational base

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Sir Richard Branson has moved his rocket plane from its development base in California to what will be its operational centre in New Mexico.

The transfer of the Unity vehicle and its mothership, Eve, to the Spaceport America complex signals the start of final testing.

Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic company is now close to beginning commercial service.

More than 600 individuals have paid deposits to ride Unity to over 80km.

The trip will enable them to experience a few minutes of weightlessness around the top of the rocket ship’s climb.

  • Virgin’s Unity plane rockets skyward
  • Spaceship ignites engine in flight
  • ‘Inspiring’ book taken on Scots space mission

Image copyright & Trumbull Studios Image caption Unity powers to around 90km above the surface of the Earth

Already almost 100 Virgin Galactic staff have moved to the southern New Mexico spaceport to prepare it – and themselves – for operations.

Image copyright Virgin Galactic 2018 Image caption Ultimately, Sir Richard himself will take a trip to the edge of space

Unity will now perform a series of test flights above the desert.

Some of these will see it dropped from altitude to simply glide back to the runway. Others will involve firing its rocket motor to power skyward.

Ultimately, Sir Richard himself will get aboard for a trip to the edge of space.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides described the move to New Mexico as a “huge moment” for the company.

“It’s the culmination of a tonne of work by a lot of people to prepare the way to get the spaceport ready, to get the ships ready,” he said.

“And it really positions us in an exciting way to move through the final phase of our test-flight programme.”

Unity will open the commercial spaceflight service, but two more rocket planes are in production in California and will also move to Spaceport America when they are compete.

Sir Richard’s other space project – a satellite-carrying rocket launched from under the wing of a repurposed Virgin Atlantic jumbo – is also close to entering service.

The satellite launcher concept was once part of the Galactic business but was then hived off into its own concern called Virgin Orbit.

The UK government is hopeful Sir Richard will want to operate his space companies in his home country at some point, in addition to the US.

Newquay Airport in Cornwall has been proposed as a British operational hub.

Image copyright Virgin Galactic 2020 Image caption Two more rocket planes will follow Unity and Eve to New Mexico

Virgin Galactic reports high interest in its future space flights

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Virgin Galactic reports high interest in its future space flights

Associated Press

Nearly 8,000 online reservations; initial seats sold for $250,000 apiece

Sir Richard Branson poses on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange ahead of Virgin Galactic’s IPO in October.

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LOS ANGELES — Virgin Galactic has received nearly 8,000 online reservations of interest since its first successful test flight into space 14 months ago, the company said Tuesday as it nears commercial operation and prepares to reopen ticket sales.

Virgin Galactic SPCE, -1.23% already had more than 600 firm reservations that were taken from customers in 60 countries until the December 2018 flight, when it closed down ticket sales.

The company said that on Wednesday it will begin a process called “One Small Step” that will allow those online registrants who are serious about becoming passenger astronauts to register online for a firm reservation by paying a fully refundable deposit of $1,000.

Confirming a spaceflight reservation will be a process called “One Giant Leap,” echoing the words of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong when he became the first person to set foot on the moon in 1969.

The company did not say when the new set of seats would be released or the actual cost. The initial seats were sold at $250,000 apiece.

After years of development and testing at Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California, Virgin Galactic has been moving toward starting actual operations at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico — although it has not set a date.

A special carrier aircraft recently ferried its spaceship, VSS Unity, from California to New Mexico and said construction of the next two spacecraft is well underway.

Virgin Galactic is offering suborbital flights to an altitude of at least 50 miles, where passengers will see a vast swath of the Earth far below and experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the spacecraft glides to a landing.

The current 7,957 online registrations are more than double the number the number the company last reported in September 2019.

Stephen Attenborough, the company’s commercial director, said in a statement that the increasing demand for personal spaceflight was encouraging.

“One Small Step allows us to help qualify and build confidence in our direct sales pipeline, as well as to ensure that those who are most keen to make reservations, are able to do so at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

Virgin Galactic was founded by British billionaire Richard Branson after the historic 2004 flights of the experimental SpaceShipOne, which was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and won the $10 million Ansari X Prize as the first privately developed, manned rocket to reach space.

Virgin Galactic’s six-passenger spacecraft is a type called SpaceShipTwo. A carrier aircraft carries it to high altitude and releases it before its rocket engine ignites.

The company is now formally named Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. and went public on the New York Stock Exchange in October. The fleet is being manufactured by The Spaceship Company, a wholly owned subsidiary.

Virgin Galactic Reports High Interest in Space Flights

Virgin Galactic Reports High Interest in Space Flights

Virgin Galactic Reports High Interest in Space Flights

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The spaceflight company Virgin Galactic has received nearly 8,000 online reservations of interest since its first successful test flight 14 months ago.

The company reported this week on the number of people reserving seats for future space flights as it nears commercial operation and prepares to reopen ticket sales.

Virgin Galactic already had more than 600 confirmed reservations, from people in 60 countries, before the December 2018 test flight. It then suspended ticket sales.

On Wednesday the company announced that it will begin a process called “One Small Step.” It is for those online registrants who are serious about becoming passenger astronauts. They are now required to pay $1,000 toward the cost of their flight. Virgin Galactic says they will get the money back if they change their minds.

Confirming a spaceflight reservation will be a process called “One Giant Leap.” Those are the words American astronaut Neil Armstrong said when he became the first person to set foot on the moon in 1969.

Virgin Galactic did not say when the new set of seats would be released or the actual cost. The company set the cost of the first set of seats at $250,000 each.

Virgin Galactic spent years developing and testing its space flight technology at Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California. Now it is moving toward starting actual operations at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico. A start date has yet to be set, however.

A special carrier aircraft recently transported the company’s spaceship, VSS Unity, from California to New Mexico. The company has already started building two other spacecraft.

Virgin Galactic is offering flights just outside Earth’s atmosphere, as high as 80.5 kilometers up in space. There, passengers will see large parts of the planet’s surface and experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the spacecraft returns to Earth.

The current number of online registrations is more than double the number Virgin Galactic last reported in September 2019.

Stephen Attenborough is the company’s commercial director. He said in a statement that the increasing demand for personal spaceflight was a good sign.

British billionaire Richard Branson created Virgin Galactic after the historic 2004 flights of the experimental SpaceShipOne. Money for that spacecraft came from Paul Allen, a co-creator of the Microsoft Corporation. SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize, worth $10 million, as the first privately developed, manned rocket to reach space.

Virgin Galactic’s six-passenger spacecraft is called SpaceShipTwo. A carrier aircraft carries it high into the atmosphere and releases it before its rocket engine fires.

John Antczak reported this story for the Associated Press. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

reservation(s) – n. an agreement to have something, such as a room, table, or seat held for your use at a later time

commercialadj. related to or used in the buying and selling of goods and services

ticketn. a piece of paper that permits you to see a show, take part in an event, or travel on a vehicle

billionairen. a rich person who has at least a billion dollars

Virgin Galactic Space Flight, Richard Branson Space Company

Richard Branson’s Plans for Space Tourism Sure Are Aggressive

Move aside, Musk. Within four years, the Virgin honcho wants to send people to space every 32 hours.

  • Virgin Galactic is getting real in its plans for space tourism.
  • A document filed by the company’s minority owners details its aggressive plans for the next several years, beginning with test flights in 2020.
  • By 2023, if Virgin Galactic and others have their way, space tourism will have reached a level of normalcy (at least for those who can afford it.)

The launch into commercial space travel will be an aggressive one, if Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic gets its way. Within a document published by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company describes a plan with crewed test flights starting in 2020 and sending 1,500 tourists into space every year by 2023.

The document was an SEC filing by Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings (SCHH), 49 percent owners of Virgin Galactic. Without much fanfare, Virgin Galactic has gone public on the New York Stock Exchange as a subsidiary of SCHH, a special purpose acquisition company run by former Facebook employees.

The filing describes a clear plan for Virgin Galactic: tickets going for $250,000 each, promising several minutes of weightlessness and views of the curvature of Earth. Virgin Galactic will take customers 50 miles above Earth’s surface, at which point both NASA and Air Force pilots get their astronaut wings.

The filing describes a “universal fascination with human spaceflight” and notes that among the millionaire set Virgin Galactic is targeting, out-of-home experiences are often a priority beyond luxury goods or amenities.

However, where Virgin Galatic is taking its passengers is not a universally agreed upon definition of space. There’s also the Kármán line, or 100 km (about 62 miles) into space. That’s the Earth-space separation point for the Fédération aéronautique internationale (FAI), which maintains aeronautical and astronomical records.

Kármán line debate aside, SCHH says that almost 700 people have signed up for rides in a SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, which require two pilots and can hold six passengers. The company hopes to start with 16 flights in 2020, bumped up to 270 flights a year by 2023. At that point, Virgin Galactic hopes it will have a full fleet of five SS2 spacecraft, as opposed to the two spacecraft (VSS Enterprise and VSS Unity) it does now. Each Virgin Galactic spacecraft also requires a quadjet cargo airplane for launching.

Along with fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Branson hopes to launch a new era of space tourism. It appears that the potential business model is coming into focus.

Virgin Galactic Space Plane Preps for Space Tourism Flights, Digital Trends

Space tourism: Watch Virgin Galactic’s space plane arrive at new base

For the very wealthy, tourist trips to space should soon become a new way to blow a large chunk of change.

While outfits such as SpaceX and Blue Origin tend to get the most column inches regarding proposed space tourism services, Virgin Galactic has also been busy working on its own system to give paying customers the ride of a lifetime.

With a view to launching its first space tourism flight as early as June 2020, Virgin Galactic has just relocated its SpaceShipTwo passenger craft, VSS Unity, to its commercial headquarters at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

VMS Eve, the aircraft that will carry Unity on the first part of its journey toward space during the tourism trips, flew the passenger craft from Mojave, California, home to the company’s manufacturing facilities.

Watch SpaceShipTwo Unity and our mothership, VMS Eve, land at the Gateway to Space, Spaceport America, New Mexico and complete another vital step on the path to commercial service. Read about the next steps for Unity’s flight test program here.

Virgin Galactic said the three-hour flight gave it the chance to evaluate VSS Unity at high altitude and cold temperatures, as well as a chance to carry out more pilot training.

The team has been working on its space tourism project since 2004, though the endeavor suffered a serious blow in 2014 when the VSS Enterprise space plane crashed during a test flight, killing one of the two pilots. After a period of review and reflection, Virgin Galactic returned in 2016 with the new VSS Unity aircraft before making the first of several successful test flights to the edge of space in 2018.

A seat on the space plane for the 90-minute trip will set you back an eye-watering $250,000. The experience will include being carried high in the sky by the carrier plane before Unity’s rocket engines fire up to take you toward the generally agreed boundary of where space begins, around 62 miles up. Besides the breathtaking views, you’ll also experience a brief period of weightlessness before returning to Earth for a runway landing.

In time, Virgin Galactic says it wants to operate a range of vehicles from multiple locations to cater to the demands of the growing space-user community, including “transporting passengers to Earth-orbiting hotels and science laboratories or providing a world-shrinking, transcontinental service.”

Final stages of preparation

The relocation of VSS Unity to Spaceport America means the 100-strong team can now begin work on the final stages of its flight test program, starting with a number of captive carry and glide flights from the new operating base.

After that, the team will move on to rocket-powered test flights from Spaceport America to confirm VSS Unity’s readiness for its first commercial spaceflight operations.

As we mentioned at the top, Virgin Galactic isn’t the only company looking to launch space tourism flights in the near future. Blue Origin, owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, is developing a reusable rocket system for the same purpose, with one of its test flights last year giving future passengers an idea of what to expect from its 10-minute space ride. Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s SpaceX also has a plan to send a Japanese billionaire and eight artists on a trip to the moon and back, possibly in 2023.

Will Virgin Galactic Space Flights Take Off Soon?

Will Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Space Flights Take Off Soon?

We went to middle-of-nowhere New Mexico to find out

There’s a lot of nothing in New Mexico. As one of the least populated states in America, the arid landscape offers countless miles of rock- and scrub-lined highways stretching between sporadic, lonely rest stops. Away from Santa Fe, there doesn’t seem to be a town big enough to change its own future, let alone the future of the world.

Still, if you head about 25 miles south of Truth or Consequences (yes, real town name), you’ll come across a vast stretch of fenced-in concrete and tarmac laid out around a hub of sprawling, modern buildings. You’ve discovered Spaceport America, the country’s first private launch facility for orbital tourism and the operational headquarters for Virgin Galactic.

There’s a lot of nothing in New Mexico (John Lewinski)

After years of investment, engineering and construction, the Virgin Galactic space tourism service appears set to send its first customers (and owner Richard Branson) into the stars this year. In the meantime, the company is hard at work building an elite, exclusive community among aspiring astronauts able to pay the $250,000 roundtrip ticket. (The one-way trips seem more popular with cremated customers so far.)

More than 600 would-be Buzz Aldrin(s) paid the $50,000 deposit to snag their seats before Virgin put a hold on sales. They’ll float over the remaining $200K before T-minus-zero takes them skyward.

Clare Pelly, Head of the Virgin Galactic Astronaut Office, is in charge of keeping those 600+ planetary pioneers engaged, organized and entertained as the company completes its final round of test flights over the great American southwest. She says it was Branson’s idea to build this astronaut community to test the waters and see how willing people were to get onboard the space train.

“The response was overwhelming,” Pelly tells InsideHook. “There are more than 60 nations represented, led by the U.S., the UK, Australia, Canada and Russia. Many of the customers never thought they’d have the chance to fly into space, and they get that opportunity through us.”

“Then, there are the people who have done everything. They’ve climbed Everest. They’ve been pole to pole, and this is just the ultimate addition to their bucket list.”

After making test flights for the last five years, Virgin Galactic recently completed the most advanced version of its Space Plane. Resembling a mix of a Gulfstream jet and a trimmed-down space shuttle, the craft will carry six tourists per flight above the atmosphere. Those happy few will experience total weightlessness and view the globe from above as the craft turns over to allow a full view through the roof viewing port.

The eventual plan is to fire up a new flight daily as long as demand maintains escape velocity. There’s no official word yet if such a successful, ongoing and regular service will generate enough revenue to bring that 250-large down a tick or two.

For now, Virgin Galactic is prepping for about 100 flights to get its current eager ticket holders off the ground. It’s the job of Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor, to get all of those passengers educated, trained and prepped for short term space travel.

“The process starts several months before the passengers’ flight,” Moses says. “Leading right up to your flight, you would travel to New Mexico for a week. Sunday, we’d do final fittings on your Under Armour space suit. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday would be solid training days, with your flight coming that week.”

Six months before all of that begins in the desert, Pelly’s Astronaut Office steps in to get your suit measurements and other physical details for your bespoke seat, to research your expectations and goals for your flight and to introduce you to the larger space-tourist community.

Training falls to Moses, as a former NASA Assembly Manager and the first woman to reach space on a commercial flight. She’s been directly involved in the design and engineering of the passenger experience from early in the Virgin Galactic story — serving as the Cabin Test Lead.

As the engineers produce each new version of the Space Plane, she works with the evaluating and development program to make sure this expensive journey to the stars offers up maximum comfort and safety. A glimpse inside that cabin reveals seats for two pilots and six tourists. Those six guest spots offer a clear view to the left and right, as well as overhead — the ship’s “sunroof” will get you closer to said sun than the roof of any hatchback will. The entire “space” stretch of the journey lasts less than 15 minutes, with the total flight time stretching just over an hour.

“During takeoff and into the flight, the experience is very much like standard air travel,” Moses claims. “But, when in space, you get to unbuckle and float around and have fun. From the customer perspective, that difference is huge.”

Once in that made-to-order seat, every passenger’s successful adventure is in the hands of David Mackay, Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot. A veteran of the Royal Air Force and a longtime captain in the more atmosphere-bound Virgin Atlantic fleet, Mackay served as a test pilot for world famous aircraft like the Harrier jump-jet before receiving the Air Force Cross in 1992.

“We go officially into space — about 50 miles above the Earth, the NASA-accepted definition,” Mackay explains. “The challenge of this flight is that, while the plane is still in the atmosphere, it flies as a regular aircraft would. Once it leaves the atmosphere, you’re on a ballistic flight path. That’s predetermined by the way you leave the atmosphere.”

The Scotsman commands a team of six space pilots — all of whom serve as test crew during the Virgin Galactic development stages. During his successful first complete test flight, Mackay became the first Scot in space.

A propeller-powered mothership carries the Space Plane up to a cruising altitude above Spaceport America before Mackay’s craft detaches and activates its onboard booster rocket. While a controlled burn tears through enough fuel to get the craft out of the atmosphere’s upper levels. Mackay positions the vehicle for the passengers’ experience of zero gravity and the best possible views.

“We can’t change the flight path of the vehicle, but you can change the vehicle’s attitude. We can orientate it to optimize the flight path. We believe the best option is to invert the vehicle at apogee. We also reenter the atmosphere in an inverted position, so passengers get a chance to see the Earth rushing back toward them.”

(John Lewinski)

After the space plane escaped the surly bonds of Earth long enough to give its passengers a taste of the void, it’s up to Mackay to get all souls on board back to the dirt. He describes the ship behaving like a badminton birdie at this point, adjusting its tail into a feather position to stabilize its descent.

At this point, the space plane will have burned out its rocket engine (its only onboard propellent) several minutes ago. Once out of its shuttlecock formation, the aircraft becomes “dead stick,” gliding outside the bounds of terminal velocity thanks to physics and Mackay’s piloting skills. The only thing left after that is touchdown, along an extensive runway back in the New Mexico desert.

Virgin Atlantic just completed construction of its third space plane vehicle, certifying it “weight on wheels,” or able to hold its total structural integrity. Within the coming year, the world will learn if a space tourism effort can maintain its own “weight on wheels” by sending civilian space travelers skyward every single day.

Virgin Galactic Stock Is a Bet on the Future of Space Travel

Virgin Galactic Stock Is a Bet on the Future of Space Travel. How Much Is That Worth?

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo.

The stock of space-tourism and technology company Virgin Galactic is on an epic tear, leaving some value investors scratching their heads. Why is a company with, essentially, no sales worth billions? That question misses the point. Virgin Galactic has ambitions to become more than a space-tourism operator. It wants to bring hypersonic flight to the masses.

Start with the epic stock run. Shares have gained about 190% year to date and up more than 360% over the past three months, crushing the comparable returns of the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. What’s more, Virgin Galactic (ticker: SPCE) warrants —issued by the company giving investors the right to buy a share for $11.50—are up more than 520% year to date and 1,370% over the past three months.

Investors must be really excited about space tourism. Galactic plans to take thrill-seekers up to the edge of space and back for about $250,000 per trip. The company said it has received more than 8,000 inquiries about its flights when it reported fourth-quarter numbers–its first quarterly report as a publicly traded company–Tuesday evening. Inquiries grew more than 100% since the end of 2019. A lot of people want to experience weightlessness.

That’s not all Virgin Galactic wants to be known for. “There is demand for higher speed flight,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides tells Barron’s. Whitesides is qualified to talk about high-speed flight. He’s was the chief of staff at NASA and a fellow at the U.K. Royal Aeronautical Society as well as a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. What’s more, he’s a pilot certified parabolic flight coach.

(Investors shouldn’t feel sheepish if they don’t know what a parabolic flight coach does. Those are flights designed to simulate zero-gravity, or weightlessness. Barron’s had to look it up too.)

“We’ve been stuck at Mach 0.85 for a generation,” adds Whitesides. Mach is the engineering term for the speed of sound, about 767 miles per hour. Travelers once had higher speeds available to them via the iconic Concord jet. It cruised at more than 1,300 miles per hour, making it a supersonic flight. Hypersonic speeds are above Mach 5, more than 3,000 miles per hour.

“At those speeds, you need a hybrid engine,” explains Whitesides. In this case, he’s talking about combining turbine jet engines, which have, essentially, spinning parts, with ramjet engines, that use the forward motion of the plane to compress the air. It’s technically complex and one reason hypersonic travel is expensive.

But there are pockets of hypersonic development. Militaries around the globe are investing in hypersonic technology. That could be a source of business for Galactic, although there are no firm plans yet. And Galactic’s hypersonic technology could take a Tesla-like (TSLA) approach to the market, targeting high-net-worth individuals interested in higher speed flight. There is, after all, an existing market for multi-million dollar private jets.

Tesla initially sold $100,000-plus vehicles to rich automobile owners. The company has been cutting the costs of its models over time, and now offers some base models for less than $40,000.

None of the hypersonic sales in the future are assured. Hypersonic private jets aren’t on the near-term horizon, and Whitesides didn’t discuss how much a hypersonic jet program would cost to develop. But even commercial aerospace giant Boeing (BA) is interested in the technology. It has invested $20 million in Virgin Galactic. Galactic, while it remains an early-stage, pre-revenue company, has $480 million of cash on its balance sheet.

“Our work with Virgin Galactic, and others, will help unlock the future of space travel and high-speed mobility,” said Brian Schettler, senior managing director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures, in an earlier statement that Boeing referred Barron’s to.