- U.S. anti-espionage laws bar Chinese nationals from Virgin space flights
- Chinese offers to buy $260,000 tickets "rejected"
- Multiple passport holders may be allowed
- Trips criticized as too short and too expensive
Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, has barred Chinese nationals from applying for spots on its first commercial flights.
Cashed-up People's Republic of China passport holders have reportedly been willing to pay the $260,000 fare for a spot on the inaugural Virgin Galactic space flight scheduled for later this year, but have been turned down in order to comply with United States anti-espionage laws, the South China Morning Post reports.
Rocket engines on the Virgin Galactic craft -- named SpaceShip Two and WhiteKnight Two -- are reportedly considered military grade technology under Cold War U.S. arms trafficking laws.
The legislation was designed to prevent foreign powers, such as China, from getting hold of U.S. military tech secrets.
"Both SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnight Two are U.S. technology and are therefore subject to U.S. regulations," said Winnie Chan, a spokesperson for a Virgin Galactic accredited partner in Asia.
Chinese nationals with multiple passports or U.S. residency might be considered for a place on the space trips, Virgin Galactic said.
Short -- but sweet?
Virgin Galactic has already accrued almost $70 million in deposits for spots on its space flights, according to the SCMP, the first of which is due to take place later this year.
A ticket gets you a 110-kilometer trip into the atmosphere and six minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth.
The cost of the tickets has been criticized as excessive for such relatively brief excursions.
Virgin Galactic will be headquartered and launching its flights from Spaceport America, a planned epicenter of space tourism near the New Mexico town of Truth or Consequences.
"Come visit us!" says the Spaceport America website.
No mention of nationality.
CNN first learned of the story on Twitter.