The race for the space business is getting intense as big organizations are spending billions of dollars in creating the infrastructure for space tourism. While we have frequently heard Elon Musk’s SpaceX or Jess Bezos’ Blue Origin working on the plan, Richard Branson’s space tourism venture Virgin Galactic has pulled the rabbit out of the hat.
Virgin Galactic is all set to become the first company in the space tourism to go public. During a recent interview with the CNBC, we heard this straight from Virgin Galactic chairman Mr. Branson.
After a successful merger announced earlier this year with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), Virgin Galactic is preparing for its listing on the New York Stock Exchange by the end of this year. Moreover, Branson hinted that the listing could be in the early Q4, maybe within a month’s time.
Branson said that upon completion of the merger, Virgin Galactic will have a valuation of around $1.5 billion. SCH will be retaining its 49% stake while Branson will be having a 51% majority stake in the company. “I will retain control of the company. I will keep roughly 51%,” he said.
Starting Human Spaceflight Within a Year
Virgin Galactic Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya said earlier this year that his company is going to start spaceflight within a year’s time. Besides, Palihapitiya also sees the company going profitable just within two years of time frame soon after the public listing.
Interestingly, he also compares this business’s profit margin to be similar to a software company. Palihapitiya said:
“What the team has built, and this is what was amazing to me, is a business that has software-like margins. This thing looks like a software business under the hood even though it’s flying people to space. This is, I think, a really compelling risk-reward.”
Currently, Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft can carry around six passengers along with two pilots, for a given flight. Each flight costs around $250,000 per person. The company said that it already has over 600 customers waiting to fly with them. It’s also worth mentioning that the company has already presented the ‘Under Armour’-made spacesuits that travelers will be wearing during these trips.
Plans of Global Expansion
At present, Virgin Galactic is operating only in the United States with testing facilities in California’s Mojave Desert. Besides, the company also has an agreement with Spaceport America in New Mexico for its commercial flights.
However, the company is planning to expand its operations globally in Asia, Australia and Europe, especially the Scandinavian region. Branson said:
“Abu Dhabi would like us to do a spaceport there, and we’re in discussions with them. Italy would like us to do a spaceport there. Great Britain wants us to do a spaceport. Australia talked to us about doing a spaceport.”
He also added that they had talked about going up into the Northern Lights. “It would we ridiculous”, said he.
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