Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic to become first public space company

Ann Santiago
July 10, 2019

Mr Palihapitiya will become chairman of the board and has pledged to invest an additional 100 million USA dollars (£80.3 million) as part of the transaction.

Virgin Galactic also recently announced it is moving more than 100 employees from Mojave, California, to a spaceport in New Mexico where they plan to conduct commercial operations.

It comes after Social Capital Hedosophia has announced it will merge with Virgin Galactic.

The deal was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal.

British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic plans a stock market listing by the end of the year, becoming the first space tourism firm to tap public markets for funding.

Aiming to be the world's first commercial spaceline, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is racing for the crown against two major players: Blue Origin, the space tourism company helmed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, which unveiled its "Blue Moon" lunar lander in May 2019, and plans to get tourists to the moon by 2024, and Elon Musk's SpaceX, which announced its first passenger flight to the moon in February 2017, with the mission planned for 2023.

Branson said Virgin Galactic has made "great progress" in its test-flight program and is on track to begin commercial services, allowing it to "open space to more investors and thousands of new astronauts". "I am delighted that SCH has chose to become such an important part of our fantastic journey".

The US defines space as altitude above 50 miles.

New Virgin Galactic Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya told CNBC Tuesday the company will become profitable in two years. "They share our dreams and together we will make them reality", the entrepreneur added. (AMZN.O) founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla Inc.'s (TSLA.O) Elon Musk, who are racing to send customers into space.

Branson is thought to have already invested more than $1 billion in the project since 2004, while a similar proposed Saudi investment was suspended previous year following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

To date VG has space tourism reservations from more than 600 people across 60 countries, earning it about US$80 million in paid deposits and US$120 million in potential revenues, the group said today.

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