Shefket Chapadjiev (right) and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson. Chapadjiev, 84, bought a ticket in 2007 to fly into space with Virgin Galactic. But Chapadjiev finally got tired of waiting and asked for a refund.

Shefket Chapadjiev, 84, bought a ticket in 2007 to fly into space with Virgin Galactic. But Chapadjiev, seen with Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, finally got tired of waiting and asked for a refund.

Provided

He paid Virgin Galactic $175K in 2007 to be on a spaceflight. Now 84, Elk Grove Village man, tired of waiting, got his money back.

Shefket Chapadjiev hoped to take a ride on one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic rocket ships. But he’s happy with what he has in life — including a 1½ -year-old granddaughter.

Shefket Chapadjiev watched a beaming Richard Branson and his fellow space tourists floating 53 miles above Earth last year on a spaceflight years in the making.

But for the 84-year-old Elk Grove Village man, his own dream of spaceflight has felt like a distant, dying star.

Chapadjiev, who paid $175,000 15 years ago for a ticket on Virgin Galactic’s commercial spaceship, finally got tired of waiting and asked for a refund. After having previously been urged to keep waiting just a little longer, this time he got it.

“This has been for 15 years, and always we’re supposed to be flying next year, next year,” says Chapadjiev, a native of Bulgaria. “People from Bulgaria keep asking me, ‘What happened?’ ”

Over the long years waiting, Virgin Galactic would send Chapadjiev teasing gifts with the company logo on them — a key fob and a space jacket, among others. And plenty of email updates.

But what Chapadjiev really wanted was to cross “space travel” off his bucket list.

“They said they cannot guarantee me I’m going to fly next year,” says Chapadjiev, who says his health at this point is “not that great.”

Shefket Chapadjiev, 84, wearing a jacket he received from Virgin Galactic while waiting — in vain, as things turned out — more than a decade for a hoped-for trip to space on a commercial spaceflight.

Shefket Chapadjiev, 84, wearing a jacket he received from Virgin Galactic while waiting — in vain, as things turned out — more than a decade for a hoped-for trip to space on a commercial spaceflight.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

A wealthy businessman who made his fortune in publishing, he doesn’t need the money, which is probably a good thing because he says his refund from Virgin Galactic came minus 10% of the amount he paid.

The card from Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic in this photo was one of the teasing gifts sent to Shefket Chapadjiev over the years to keep him interested during the decade-plus that he was waiting for a spot that never on a commercial flight into space.

The card from Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic in this photo was one of the teasing gifts sent to Shefket Chapadjiev over the years to keep him interested during the decade-plus that he was waiting for a spot that never on a commercial flight into space.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Shefket Chapadjiev points to a photo of one of the rockets he had hoped to ride into space.

Shefket Chapadjiev points to a photo of one of the rockets he had hoped to ride into space.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

A company spokesman disputes that, saying the nonrefundable amount actually was 5%.

Chapadjiev, a celebrity in his native Bulgaria, also has a condo in the former John Hancock Center.

While Chapadjiev waited, Virgin Galactic had a number of setbacks with the program. The worst: One of its spacecraft crashed during a test flight in 2014, killing one pilot and injuring another.

Richard Branson and five crewmates flew into space in July 2021 aboard Virgin Galactic’s Unity spacecraft.

Richard Branson and five crewmates flew into space in July 2021 aboard Virgin Galactic’s Unity spacecraft.

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But Branson, with five crewmates from his space-tourism company, finally rocketed into space in July 2021.

Chapadjiev says Branson’s flight last year made him optimistic for a time, “but that hope disappeared.”

The company had planned to begin taking paying customers into space in 2022 but decided instead to modify the fleet to allow Virgin Galactic to make more frequent flights, according to a company spokesman.

It now has tentative plans to begin commercial flights next year. A ride on one of them is now up to $450,000. Even at that price, about 800 tickets have been sold, according to the Virgin Galactic spokesman, who won’t say how many other customers got tired of waiting and asked for refunds.

Even though he won’t realize his dream of going up in space, Chapadjiev says he is a happy man. He’s seen most of the world, flown on the supersonic Concord and, best of all, now has a 1½ -year-old granddaughter and another due soon.

“That is the happiest thing I’ve got right now,” he says.

Shefket Chapadjiev, 84, looks to the sky at his home in Elk Grove Village. He dreamed of going into space after paying Virgin Galactic $175,000 in 2007 for a ticket on a hoped-for commercial space flight. Now, instead of looking to the sky to find his dreams, he says he is finding them in his young granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.

Shefket Chapadjiev, 84, dreamed of going into space after paying Virgin Galactic $175,000 in 2007 for a ticket on a hoped-for commercial space flight. Now, instead of looking to the sky to find his dreams, he says he is finding them in his young granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

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