Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic set to become world’s first listed space tourism company

In a recent $1.3 billion deal, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galatic has sold 49 percent stake to Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia.

The day isn’t far when humans would be able to visit space and other planets, either to reside or to just explore. Thanks to advanced technologies and innovations, the space is now open for business.

Several private entities are racing against each other to see who is the first to take us to space - not for research or exploration, but for business.

While many might be familiar with Elon Musk’ Space X or Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, another player is joining the race. Meet Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic that is set to go public in a $1.3 billion deal with Social Capital Hedosophia, a special-purpose-acquisition company created by former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya.

Virgin Galactic’s focus is on suborbital launches to conduct experiments and take tourists to space.

Richard Branson (Image: Fox Business)

Speaking to CNBC, Chamath said,

“Virgin Galactic is projected to become profitable on an annual basis by August 2021.”

The two billionaires - Richard and Chamath - also said Virgin Galactic is on track to fly its first customers within a year.

Richard added,

“Since we put two spaceships into space earlier this year and made five new astronauts – the first astronauts to have been made on American soil since 2009 – we’ve had 2,500 people ask to sign up.”

In this deal, 49 percent of Virgin Galactic will be Chamath’s Social Capital Hedosophia’s and become the first listed space tourism venture in the world.

According to  Richard, the funding would provide enough capital to back the business until its spaceship operates commercially and generates some profits.

If you are wondering how much a ticket would cost, the answer is a hefty sum of $250,000 per person. In a single flight, the spaceship can hold six passengers and two pilots.

Unlike other conventional space travel, Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft will be accompanied by a jet-powered aircraft, which will drop it at a height of about 40,000 feet. Once it’s dropped, the spacecraft would be powered by its rocket motor and would fly three times the speed of sound as it hurtles towards space.

In an interview with The Guardian, Chamath said,

“We are confident that Virgin Galactic is light years ahead of the competition. It is backed by an exciting business model and an uncompromising commitment to safety and customer satisfaction. I cannot wait to take my first trip to space and become an astronaut.”

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)