Sir Richard Branson has revealed that his commercial space flight venture Virgin Galactic is to accept payment in bitcoins.
The 63-year-old entrepreneur is best known as the founder of Virgin Group, which owns more than 400 companies including the Virgin Atlantic airline and telecommunications provider Virgin Media.
A post on Branson’s blog states that a female flight attendant from Hawaii has already purchased her Virgin Galactic ticket in bitcoins.
Many of the early ticket holders for the suborbital space flights are also bitcoin fans, including actor Ashton Kutcher and Shervin Pishevar, investor in Uber and Tumblr.
Pishevar commented that space travel and bitcoin’s “stratospheric rise” go well together. He added:
“Branson is a true visionary and embracing bitcoin is an important endorsement. I look forward to paying for Branson’s future space hotels in bitcoins. To infinity and beyond!”
Branson reveals he has already invested in some bitcoins and encourages others to do the same.
He said that, like bitcoin, Virgin Galactic is forward thinking, so it makes sense for the company to offer digital currency as a way to pay for journeys into space.
The first commercial suborbital flight, which is to be televised by NBC Universal, is set to take place in 2014.
“We would be delighted to welcome more of the bitcoin community as future astronauts,” his blog post concludes.
He sees bitcoin as a low-risk option for Virgin Galactic, and when asked why it decided to accept bitcoin, replied: “Why not?”
“I think it’s fascinating what’s happened,” he added. “Congress has just been spending a week looking at it, they might bring in some regulation but I hope it doesn’t stifle the innovation of new technologies like bitcoin.”
Branson admits that there are risks in any technological venture, but points out that bitcoin’s value has soared in a short space of time. He also said that he believes the price is ultimately going to settle higher than it currently stands today.
The price of a Virgin Galactic flight at present stands at $250,000, equivalent to 342 bitcoins at the current Bitcoin Price Index.
In the beginning
Branson, who now has an estimated net worth of $4.6bn, started his business career at the tender age of 16, when he set up a magazine called The Student, which advertised popular music records.
He set up a mail-order record business in 1970, opening a chain of record stores two years later. Over the next decade, the Virgin brand grew rapidly with the creation of Virgin Atlantic and the expansion of Virgin Records.
The 1990s saw the entrepreneur launch a number of other ventures, including Virgin Mobile and Virgin Trains. It was in 1992 that he sold Virgin records to Thorn EMI for a reported $1bn.
Back in February this year, Branson invested in black cab app Hailo, which enables people to hail taxis in 16 cities across the world using their smartphones.
Branson has also invested in payment startups Square and Clinkle, and believes that the days of carrying physical cash could soon be over:
“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.”