Virgin Galactic announced Thursday it will launch its first two commercial space flights in June and August, causing the 19-year-old company’s share price to spike over 40% in after-hours trading.
The company said that its first voyage, dubbed “Galactic 01,” will fly between June 27 and 30, and a second flight, “Galactic 02,” will take place in early August.
The first spacecraft in June will carry three members of the Italian Air Force and National Research Council of Italy to conduct microgravity research, while the August trip will take the company’s first private astronauts to space, the company said.
After those two, the company plans monthly flights going forward.
Shares in Virgin Galactic jumped 44% in extended trading Thursday after the announcement, and were trading at around $5.86 per share as of 6:15 p.m. after closing Thursday at $4.06—still well below the company’s 52-week high of $8.56 last summer.
Virgin Galactic was founded by billionaire Richard Branson in 2004 with the goal of taking wealthy clients to the edge of space, and it went public in 2019. Branson became the first billionaire to fly to space on his own rocket two years ago, and has operated several test flights, a new phase in what some have dubbed a space race amongst the super wealthy. Other members of the billionaire class have been itching to get into space travel including Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, which contracts with NASA to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and was established with the lofty goal of putting humans on Mars. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos used his Amazon wealth to create Blue Origin, which has similarly taken him to the edge of space.
$450,000. That’s how much it costs in total for tourists to ride in the spacecraft with Virgin Galactic.
We estimate Branson’s net worth at $3 billion.
Virgin Orbit, another Branson company that launches satellites into space, has had a more tumultuous road. In March, CEO Dan Hart announced the company was ceasing operations and letting go 90% of its employees after it failed to secure sufficient funding. This meant 675 employees lost their jobs, bringing its head count to roughly 100.
Virgin Galactic Plans First Fully Crewed Space Flight In 2 Years—Ahead Of Commercial Liftoff (Forbes)
Branson’s Virgin Orbit Reportedly Ceases Operations For ‘Foreseeable Future’ After Failing To Secure Funding (Forbes)
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