Space race is on as Branson’s Virgin Galactic plans to go public

Branson in competition with Amazon founder Bezos to bring tourists to space

Richard Branson walks near Virgin Galactic’s mothership WhiteKnightTwo,  intended to carry SpaceShipTwo to launch commercial passengers into space. Photograph: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic/Reuters

Richard Branson walks near Virgin Galactic’s mothership WhiteKnightTwo, intended to carry SpaceShipTwo to launch commercial passengers into space. Photograph: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic/Reuters

 

Richard Branson’s space-tourism venture, Virgin Galactic, plans to go public as part of a deal with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) created by Social Capital LP chief executive Chamath Palihapitiya, sources claimed.

The deal was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said the SPAC, Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings, will invest about $800 million (€714 million) for a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Galactic.

The deal could be announced as early as Tuesday morning, said the source.

Virgin Galactic and Social Capital Hedosophia did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Branson’s company is racing against Blue Origin, the space business of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to bring tourists into space.

Virgin Galactic in February soared to the edge of space with a test passenger for the first time, nudging the company closer to its goal of suborbital flights for space tourists.

After Mr Branson founded the company in 2004, his ambitious timeline for taking customers into space suffered delays and a fatal setback when the original SpaceShipTwo crashed on a test flight in 2014 that killed the co-pilot and seriously injured the pilot.

Mr Branson has said he plans to be the first passenger on SpaceShipTwo’s first commercial flight in mid-2019. – Reuters