The flights will take off from America, and the technology used by the space tourism company, including rocket engines and space suits, is controlled by U.S. anti-espionage restrictions introduced during the Cold War: the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
However, applicants with U.S. residency or dual nationality may be considered. Hong Kong residents can also apply, because the former British colony is exempt.
“We have had calls from people in China but we have to tell them we can’t accept them if they only have a Chinese passport,” said a Virgin Galactic salesman in Hong Kong, according to the Independent.
“We advise them on how they can make themselves eligible for a space tour. For example, they can get another nationality’s passport or they can apply for a [American] Green Card,” he added.
Founded by U.K. billionaire Richard Branson in 2004, Virgin Galactic has been delaying its first commercial flight since 2007. Passengers will pay $250,000 to fly 68 miles into the atmosphere, where they will experience zero gravity for six minutes, before returning to Earth.
The ban on Chinese applicants has been put in place just as the United Kingdom is allowing China’s state-run companies to invest in its nuclear and telecom industries, and potentially in a new high-speed rail network.