Sir Richard Branson is launching Virgin Galactic Holdings

Sir Richard Branson is hoping to ring the New York Stock Exchange bell on Monday (New York time) to launch the new Virgin Galactic Holdings as a public company.

Virgin Galactic, a vertically integrated aerospace company with plans to fly people to the edge of space next year, has confirmed it has merged with publicly-listed Silicon Valley public investment vehicle Social Capital Hedosophia in a deal that brought US$800 million to Virgin.

Virgin Galactic space plane

Social Capital Hedosophia is already listed on the New York Stock Exchange, allowing Virgin Galactic Holdings to sell shares without following the traditional stock offering process. It is a first for a space tourism company.

“Today is the start of a new era for the human spaceflight industry. Virgin Galactic has already pioneered several important space milestones, including sending the first test passenger to space onboard a commercial vehicle, and today’s announcement is no different.”

“Now that Virgin Galactic is a publicly traded company, anyone can invest in a human spaceflight company that is striving to truly transform the market and be part of the excitement of the commercial space industry.”

“I am proud of the strong flow of customer deposits and interest we have earned to date, and look forward to making the dream of spaceflight come true for our amazing astronaut customers,” said Virgin Galactic Holdings CEO George Whitesides.

The latest cash injection values Virgin Galactic at US$2.3billion. Before the merger with Social Capital Hedosophia, Virgin Galactic had already received investment from Branson and Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund. Sir Richard Branson, who invested around US$880million, will remain the biggest shareholder, owning more than 40% of Virgin Galactic Holdings.

“Since our founding, Social Capital Hedosophia set out to unite technologists, entrepreneurs and technology-oriented investors around a shared vision. What was once a pursuit is now a successfully completed mission. We are pleased to have reached today’s monumental milestone and look forward to continuing to work with the Company to transform the commercial space industry,” said Social Capital Hedosophia founder and CEO Chamath Palihapitiya, who will be Chairman of Virgin Galactic Holdings.

Virgin Galactic Spaceport
Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America near Upham in New Mexico. Picture: Virgin Galactic

In February this year, Virgin Galactic tested its first mission to the edge of space with a passenger, Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor. Further tests are needed before allowing the public on board. Virgin Galactic has reservations from more than 600 people based in 60 countries, who have paid up to US$250,000 each for a promised 90-minute flight to the edge of space and back.

Virgin Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses flew to the edge of space as a passenger. Photo: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk‘s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos‘s Blue Origin are all looking at sending fee-paying passengers into space.

“To fellow investors, employees of VG and The Spaceship Company, business partners and customers – thank you for your commitment to our great company, which has made today’s exciting announcement possible. With our proprietary spaceflight system, special airspace access at Spaceport America, globally-recognised brand and broad investor interest, I believe VG is ideally positioned to capitalise on the fast-growing, multibillion-dollar commercial space market and [will] ultimately open space to thousands of new astronauts. Today, we achieved one mission, and as we bring more and more future astronauts to space, we look forward to the future.”

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