Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space-tourism business to go public

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Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides in Mojave, California, February 19, 2016, unveil the SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger two-pilot vehicle meant to ferry people into space. Richard Branson's space-tourism company will merge with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings (SCH), giving the special-purpose acquisition company a 49% stake, it said in a release Tuesday.

Billionaire Richard Branson's space-tourism venture, Virgin Galactic, is reportedly preparing to go public by the end of this year as part of an agreement with a special objective acquisition company (SPAC) created by venture-capital firms Social Capital and Hedosophia.

The total value of the merger is US$1.5 billion (RM6.2 billion), the parties said.

It said the final tests flights would be completed from New Mexico ahead of the launch of full commercial service for passengers and research payload.

Virgin Galactic's fleet built by The Spaceship Company. "We are at the dawn of a new space age, with huge potential to improve and sustain life on Earth".

Going public will help Virgin Galactic raise money needed to compete against rivals such as Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX in the billionaire's space race.

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Branson himself invested most of the more than $1 billion in capital poured into Virgin Galactic since 2004, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"Having got to know Chamath and Adam over the past few months, I have no doubt that we will be better together and am delighted they are becoming such important partners on our awesome journey".

Virgin Galactic has launched multiple test flights of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital space planes, and in December 2018, the company finally made it to the edge of space, sending the VSS Unity 51.3 miles up above Earth with two human pilots.

Over 600 people have already paid 80 million dollars' worth (£64.2 million) of deposits to the company to secure their tickets on the first spaceflights.

"By taking Virgin Galactic public, at this advanced point in its development, we can open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts". "I can not wait to take my first trip to space and become an astronaut".