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Virgin Galactic becomes the first company for human spaceflight

Jul 9, 2019, 6:36 am

Virgin Galactic will become the first publicly-traded company dedicated to human spaceflight. The company will be listing its shares on the New York Stock Exchange through a minority acquisition made by Social Capital Hedosophia created by former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the SPAC would make an $800 million commitment to Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic’s main rival has always been Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. However, unlike SpaceX, Virgin Galactic is mainly focused on suborbital launches in order to conduct experiments and taking tourists up to space. SpaceX is more interested in investing in the development of launch capabilities for lunar and interplanetary travel, and commercial applications like Internet connectivity via satellite.

Initially Virgin Galactic wanted to collaborate with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the infusion of roughly $1 billion. However, this did not come to fruition as Virgin Galactic’s chief executive Richard Branson walked away from the deal following the assassination of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Kashoggi by the kingdom. This was the opening for the Hedosophia SPAC as Palihapitiya needed to invest the capital which he raised for SPAC within a two-year timeframe. Otherwise, he would have to wound down. Virgin Galactic has roughly $80 million in commitments from people around the world who are willing to pay $250,000 for a trip to the exosphere.

Virgin Galactic was launched back in 2004 as a pet project of a billionaire and initially it mainly focused on space tourism and launching small satellites into orbit. According to the Wall Street Journal, Branson had put only $1 billion into the company but now the company’s $800 million acquisition means that other than SPAC’s investment there are other companies as well which have invested in the company. In exchange of SPAC’s investment, it will own roughly 40% of the spaceflight business.

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