September 4, 2019
Virgin Galactic Raises the Bar
From the earth to the moon! What was once science fiction is fast becoming a big business opportunity, and some of the most visionary billionaires on the planet are racing to see who can corner the market on commercial space flight. As SpaceX manages to invent entirely unprecedented technology, rival Virgin Galactic is taking an entirely different approach.
Virgin Galactic’s ships and plans are as distinct as their signature CEO, Richard Branson. The company is focusing on luxury, rather than cool science. In a widely-reported unveiling, Branson’s space tourism outfit revealed a series of high-end amenities awaiting deep-pocketed clients at Spaceport America, the company’s New Mexico facilities.
According to current plans, guests secured seats on the 90-minute supersonic flights for roughly $200,000. The flights will carry guests into the upper atmosphere, a location that has caused some controversy in the commercial space flight industry. Some have said this isn’t really “space,” and that the opportunity is more fluff than substance. Branson’s team says that’s nonsense. They are taking tourists higher and faster than anyone ever has before, and that definitely counts as something special.
Naysayers are not convinced, but Virgin Galactic doesn’t seem interested in arguing the point. Instead, they are showing potential customers a luxurious locale complete with “back-lit Italian marble” and “hand-crafted oak…” Press packets show floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic desert views, as well as a dedicated mission control center and various other flight-related facilities.
Along with that release, Virgin Galactic said it was continuing test flights and would be ready for paying customers to come aboard as early as 2020. That announcement officially drew a line in the sand and on the calendar. Being first may not be the end-all-be-all, but it does earn your brand a ton of free media attention. And it’s that kind of buzz that could generate some much-needed brand recognition for a company that’s watched its competitors launch rockets and land them safely again, to the amazement of anyone and everyone who ever dreamed of flying to the stars.
But there’s more at stake for Virgin Galactic than just consumer PR. Critics in and out of New Mexico have complained about how long the project is taking to come to fruition and some have called the company’s plans “deeply flawed,” insinuating that the promises of economic growth are all on paper. Meanwhile, the facility is using tax dollars without putting anything back into the community, and it’s an investment that some are tired of waiting to see earn a return.
Given that backdrop, if Virgin Galactic can really deliver, it has a chance to turn some of that negative PR around, transforming critics into fans.
Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations.