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Virgin and Orbital Science failures raise questions over future of private space industry

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Virgin and Orbital Science failures raise questions over future of private space industry

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Virgin boss Richard Branson says the future of his space venture Virgin Galactic may be in doubt following the weekend’s fatal crash of his experimental craft.

For the last decade boosters of space tourism have been financing projects they claimed would have us all in space in a matter of years. But they are finding out rocket science is not so simple, and the industry that has yet to get off the ground may have unsurmountable safety and reliability questions to overcome.

The two tourism frontrunners were Virgin, which offered six seats at $25,000 each, and XCOR Aerospace, which hopes to offer a slightly less exotic trip up and down for just one person, for $100,000.

The setback to Virgin will delay that project’s first flight by at least a year if not more, and with over $175 million banked upfront by would-be flyers, Branson will have to deliver, or pay that money back.

All in all, with the added failure of a Orbital Sciences ISS supply rocket, private spaceflight has had a bad seven days.