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Virgin Galactic: Diffusion of Innovation in Space Tourism?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Saurabh BhattacharyaORCiD


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In December 2018, US-based Virgin Galactic LLC (Virgin Galactic), a commercial space tourism company founded by Sir Richard Branson, launched its first successful crewed test spacecraft. The company’s goal was to launch suborbital space tourism in 2019. However, experts and critics voiced concerns that Virgin Galactic’s space tourism program could have adverse environmental and health effects. A prominent astronaut also considered Branson’s space program to be a marketing gimmick aimed at ultra-rich consumers. Branson believed that Virgin Galactic caused less environmental pollution than conventional air travel and with time would become affordable. Could Branson make space tourism a feasible reality in the long term? Was Branson right to claim that space tourism would become affordable over time? Should he pursue multiple business opportunities, such as intercontinental space travel and supporting research and development projects, along with space tourism? Learning Objective: This case is intended for both undergraduate- and graduate- level courses on creativity and innovation, strategic marketing, and business strategy. It deals with innovation, diffusion of innovation, and responsible innovation in space tourism as offered by Branson through Virgin Galactic. The case also discusses the concerns of experts and critics regarding space tourism and Branson’s claims about the advantages of space tourism, where Virgin Galactic is supporting several space-related research and development projects. After working through the case and assignment questions, students will be able to do the followingdefine the concept of responsible innovation; describe how diffusion of innovation takes place across society; critically analyze whether space tourism has market potential, and identify the factors that a space company should consider when forecasting market demand;explain the significance of exploratory versus exploitation innovation in identifying business opportunities; andexamine whether space tourism is actually a marketing gimmick.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Agnihotri A, Bhattacharya S

Publication type: Online Publication

Publication status: Published

Series Title: Ivey Publishing

Year: 2020

Description: Business Case Study

Acceptance date: 14/01/2020

Publisher: Ivey Publishing

Place Published: London, OT, Canada