Virgin Galactic -- the space tourism company looking to offer suborbital flights to high-paying customers -- is now accepting the virtual currency Bitcoin as a form of payment. The news was announced in a blog post written by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.
“Virgin Galactic is one of the universe’s most exciting, futuristic companies,” the post reads. “Bitcoin, the virtual currency, has really captured the imagination recently as one of the world’s most innovative businesses looking to the future. So we think it is about time Virgin Galactic customers can choose to pay with bitcoins."
According to CNN, bitcoin is an experimental, virtual form currency created anonymously in 2010. It is not regulated by any central bank.
“Two years ago, one bitcoin was valued at less than $10,” Branson wrote. “Earlier this week, one bitcoin’s value reached $900, tripling in the past month, and a U.S. Senate committee hearing deemed it a legitimate financial service.
“One future astronaut, a female flight attendant from Hawaii, has already purchased her Virgin Galactic ticket using bitcoins, and we expect many more to follow in her footsteps,” Branson wrote. “All of our future astronauts are pioneers in their own right, and this is one more way to be forward-thinking.”
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As the Wall Street Journal reports, Branson told CNBC that Virgin Galactic has already transferred the bitcoins it received as payment into U.S. dollars, in order to establish a fixed price should they ever need to issue a refund. Potential customers can change their mind up to three months before the space flight. The cost of a single Virgin Galactic flight is $250,000.
“Bitcoins aren’t yet formally recognized by governments as a currency but with some regulation I hope that it will become more widely accepted,” Branson wrote. “A few years ago many people had doubts about whether Virgin Galactic would ever get off the ground. Now we have gone supersonic, are a long way along the testing process, and are looking forward to launching commercial space travel.”
According to WSJ, bitcoin is now being accepted as payment for everything from real estate deals to college tuition. CNN says bitcoin is currently valued at $735 each, up from $13 at the beginning of the year.
“The days of carrying cash and coins could soon be over,” Branson wrote. “Sometime in the future, innovative payment models such as Square, Clinkle and Bitcoin will become serious challengers to traditional banks, which will spur more competition and give customers even more options.”
The first commercial Virgin Galactic spaceflight is due to take place sometime in 2014. Branson and his two children will be the first private passengers to travel into space on SpaceShipTwo from the Virgin Galactic terminal at Spaceport America in New Mexico, according to a press release.