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Virgin Galactic to become the first space tourism company to go public

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$800 million investment should keep the lights on until the company turns a profit

Image: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic will soon become the first publicly traded space tourism company. A public shell company called Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp will acquire 49 percent of Virgin Galactic which was founded by Richard Branson in 2004. The deal involves an investment of roughly $800 million, according to the Wall Street Journal, and should fund its spaceships until operations can begin turning a profit.

Virgin Galactic projects that it’ll be profitable on an annual basis by August 2021, and will fly its first customers within a year, reports CNBC.

The investment comes as the nascent space tourism industry is still trying to work out its business models. Branson’s Virgin Galactic will eventually compete with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Virgin Galactic claims to have already sold hundreds of tickets at $250,000 per seat, but has yet to actually take any of these ticket holders on the planned 90-minute trip to space. Its passenger spaceplane, the VSS Unity, only made it to space for the first time in December last year.

The transaction is expected to be completed during the second half of 2019, subject to the usual approvals.

Update July 9th, 6:55AM ET: Article updated with confirmation of the deal and estimates for first customer flights and date of profitability.