Virgin Galactic spacecraft Unity fires its engine and heads to space with its first test passenger on board in February 2019.
Virgin Galactic | gif by @thesheetztweetz
Private space tourism is about to go public.
Shareholders approved Virgin Galactic’s merger with venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya’s special purpose vehicle on Wednesday, according to SEC filings, setting up the space tourism company to list directly on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.
Virgin Galactic will become the first human spaceflight company to trade on public markets.
The merger was announced in July, with Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia taking a 49% stake in Virgin Galactic. The merger gives the combined company a valuation of $1.5 billion, with Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson retaining a 51% controlling stake.
Palihapitiya’s company already trades on the NYSE under the ticker ‘IPOA.’ The filing said the company expects the merger with Virgin to close on Friday. After the closing, the shares will trade under the ticker symbol ‘SPCE’ at the NYSE on Monday.
Branson had hinted to CNBC in an interview last week that Virgin Galactic’s public debut was coming soon. Branson had said “it’s not long now” during the company’s unveiling of its spacewear collection with Under Armour.
Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft can carry as many as six passengers, along with the two pilots, to the edge of space. The spaceship is dropped from a jet-powered aircraft and fires a rocket motor, reaching over three times the speed of sound as it climbs though the Earth’s atmosphere. Then the spacecraft and its passengers float weightless for a few minutes, before gliding back down to land on Earth much like a traditional aircraft.
A ticket for a Virgin Galactic flight goes for about $250,000 per person, and the company has a list of 603 customers waiting to fly.
Special purpose vehicles are known as SPACs and raise capital to buy an existing company. In Social Capital Hedosophia’s case, Palihapitiya’s SPAC is buying just under half of the company to help it enter the public market.